Opinion: The Vital Role of Corporate Sponsors to Pride

Corporate sponsors are vital to Pride parades and the queer community as long as Britain remains a market based economy. Movements require legislative or policy changes and need political and economic capital to campaign. The queer community, like every liberation and campaign movement, must operate within Britain’s political and economic institutional constraints to achieve change.

The queer community does not control Britain’s structural political economy, but it must navigate it. Every year there is a debate over the role of business in Pride parades, which was underlined this year by ‘Just Stop Oil’s’ protest at London Pride.

Movements operate as agents constrained by liberal democratic market-based economic institutional structures. The structural power of business corporate sponsors, the institutionalisation of Pride month into market logic and the inclusion of the pink pound as part of Global Britain’s business case provide the queer community with critical political and economic capital.

Political capital is credibility with political actors who offer legitimization and campaign for changes to legislation. Economic capital is support or at least recognition by businesses. Both political and economic capital are part of the same virtuous circle. Political actors are interested in business and business is interested in politicians.

Institutional business support in the form of corporate sponsors attract politicians aspiring to have close ties with business allowing Pride to be viewed as mainstream. This is demonstrated by the shift since the early 2000s with politicians such as the leader of the Labour Party, mayor of London and Conservative defence secretary marching in Pride.

Profit-seeking firms embracing Pride through branding underlines how far the queer movement has travelled as businesses see the sales advantage in signalling their support of the LGBTQ+ community. The normalisation of queer rights within the institutional logic of the market should be embraced as institutionalised acceptance.

Positive business views on queer equality and data demonstrating the economic advantages of socially liberal states reveals how the queer community should press queer rights to become a key plank of the government’s post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ pitch. As post-Brexit Britain becomes more reliant on attracting global capital, the support (even if superficial) of businesses institutionalises queer rights in the international competition for capital.

As long as Britain remains a market-based economy, it is imperative that the queer community retains business support for Pride. Although for some businesses this might be ‘pink washing’, even this surface level support functions as a bulwark against political forces seeking to attack the queer community.

Through corporate Pride parades, the queer community gains both political and economic capital needed to protect and extend queer rights. Entrenching queer rights within the structural power of business, the institutional logic of capitalism and the business case for Global Britain safeguards this capital.

With this political and economic capital, the movement can campaign all year round for tangible progress for the community. Those who oppose queer rights long for the day when there are no corporate sponsors at Pride and the queer community should not be complicit in delivering this.

Article by Matthew Lloyd.

Matthew Lloyd (@MattJLloyd) is a teaching associate and PhD researcher at Queen Mary University of London and a political strategy consultant.

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