While the gay and lesbian market has long been on Macy's radar, the retailer is cranking up the volume on its efforts, scheduling in-store events, parade sponsorships and celebrations nationwide to celebrate Pride Month.
The change is a result of all of Macy's stores finally being under a single brand name, Orlando Veras, a Macy's spokesperson, tells Marketing Daily. "Macy's has been organized in the past as seven divisions, then as four divisions, and each division might choose to sponsor a local event. But with our recent restructuring, we're able to do this as a unified organization."
The result is a month-long event called Pride + Joy, which includes a microsite, in-store fashion events with gay-friendly celebrities, ad support, special tribute windows in select stores, and gift registry booths for same-sex couples in key cities. It also includes sponsorship and employee participation in 16 Pride parades across the country -- complete with 12-foot rainbow star balloons created just for the occasion.
And it looks like Macy's isn't the only sponsor to amp up its commitment level. This year's NYCPride March, for example, scheduled for June 27, has garnered close to $300,000 in corporate sponsorship, managing director Chris Frederick tells Marketing Daily, beating its record of $260,000 in 2006.
"This is the best year we've ever had," he says, adding that it's unclear whether that's due to a greater awareness of the gay market, increased sponsorship in general as the recession fades, or more active recruitment of corporate dollars. "But companies do seem more aware that this is a way for them to tap into a 1.5 million market that is very hard to reach otherwise."
In addition to Macy's, he says, other standouts include Ford, "which is not a large sponsor, but it's noteworthy to have them back on the roster, not just because of their struggles through the recession but also because of an earlier boycott." Wells Fargo, Wynn Las Vegas, Kiehl's and Walgreens are also on board, he says.
"As more and more Americans see and hear stories about gay and transgender people, they come to understand that we're just like them -- their families, neighbors, and friends -- and that we deserve to be accepted, respected and valued as a consumer and for who we are," Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, tells Marketing Daily in an email.
Just last year, he says, GLAAD initiated a Media Awards in Advertising, "and our nominees show that corporate America, just like the general public, is increasingly accepting and embracing our community."
But David Paisley, senior projects manager for Community Marketing Inc., a San Francisco-based marketing company specializing in the gay and lesbian market, says it's too soon to declare a post-recession charge back into gay marketing efforts. "It's a mixed bag," he tells Marketing Daily.
"Companies like ours have done pretty well through the recession, because many companies that never thought about the gay and lesbian market said to themselves: 'We've got to do something differently.' But while LBGT issues have been increasingly in the news, "it's still controversial, and that scares away many companies."
For Paisley, the big trend to watch is less about companies niche-marketing to gays, but the way gay imagery is migrating to mainstream ads. "Corporate America has had a real emphasis on ensuring diversity in its advertising in the last decade, and we're starting to see that -- the big trend will be gay and lesbian imagery in ads, with couples included much more matter of factly."