Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Who Pays for Pride? the Parties and Parades Come at a Price, and Eager Corporate Sponsors Are More Than Happy to Foot the Bill. (Pride 2003)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Who Pays for Pride? the Parties and Parades Come at a Price, and Eager Corporate Sponsors Are More Than Happy to Foot the Bill. (Pride 2003)

Article excerpt

Look beyond the pink feather boas, rainbow flags, the white briefs, the bare chests, and the fake breasts at Atlanta's pride observance in the city's Piedmont Park. Look beyond the flash to the Porta Pottis, the Dumpsters, the tents, the chairs, and the tables needed to accommodate 300,000 revelers over the three-day celebration. Pride today comes at a price.

"The total budget in 1995 was $150,000, and now the total budget is over a half million," says Donna Narducci, executive director of Atlanta's pride festival committee, who has been involved with the celebration for more than a decade. "We're past the point of being able to pay for this event through the generosity of individuals. Atlanta's expectations far exceed that."

So Narducci and organizers of gay pride events across the country are lining up corporate sponsors to help foot the bills. In Atlanta the total contribution from sponsors is about $350,000, Narducci says. Of that, more than $200,000 is cash contributions and the rest is in-kind contributions, such as advertising, mobile phones, travel vouchers, and hotel rooms.

Twenty years ago, Los Angeles's pride observance was one of the first gay celebrations to attract corporate dollars--from Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch. Today, it boasts about two dozen corporate sponsors, and Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light is a sponsor of multiple pride events, as are Showtime Networks, Absolut Vodka, Miller Lite, Wells Fargo, Del Monte's Pounce and Pup-peroni pet food brands, Bank of America, and Washington Mutual.

Another example is Whole Foods Market, which is involved in pride events in Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Madison, Wis., Durham, N.C., and Washington, D.C., among others.

"Whole Foods Market gives back at least 5% of our profits to the community," says spokesman Michael Duffield. "We donate products and services to worthy causes all the time. It's not just something we do. It's who we are."

The list of sponsors for Atlanta's celebration this June includes more than two dozen names, including CocaCola, BellSouth, Washington Mutual, Delta Air Lines, Verizon Wireless, Coors, Showtime, and Sheraton. The large number of sponsors means organizers of one of Atlanta's biggest outdoor events can stage an elaborate celebration at no cost to the public.

"We are committed to keeping our event free," Narducci says. "We want pride to be financially accessible to everyone. So we need corporate support to make that happen."

Organizers of smaller pride events say the same. Pat Baillie, copresident of the 27-year-old Albuquerque pride celebration, estimates that 30 sponsors will pay about 40% of the $36,000 budget for this year's party.

"We keep our gate admissions at donations and bring in a nationally recognized grand marshal and a headliner because of sponsorships," Baillie says. "As we grow, the only place in our budget we can grow to keep the event fun and safe is through the sponsors."

Corporate sponsors also add a certain legitimacy to pride events, says Paul Bashline, a regional director for InterPride, which provides organizational guidance for pride festivals internationally. "Because we're involved in politics, we understand the need for companies to have their names added to our supporters," he says. "By sponsoring pride events, corporations are making a statement that they do not condone discrimination. …

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