Think Global Health; June 12, 2024; by Patricio López Turconi

This Pride season, it is essential to consider the health impacts of Big Alcohol’s sponsorship of parades

In the face of current global political backlashes and the rise of political parties threatening advances on LGBTQ+ rights, it is clear that this Pride month transcends mere festivities. Pride season stands as one of the LGBTQ+ community’s most significant symbols of resilience and visibility, echoing the origins of the annual parades born from resistance against various forms of discrimination, violence, and oppression. This Pride season is a moment for the community to not only continue advocating for improved living conditions, but also bring attention to issues that may be harming its members. 

Given the significance of Pride season to the LGBTQ+ community, questions inevitably arise every year about corporate practices that look to capitalize on LGBTQ+ rights to promote their brands to a wider audience. Often, these efforts can be seen as insincere attempts to profit from the community without addressing the systemic issues at the heart of Pride festivities. 

One group that warrants such scrutiny is the alcohol industry, which has become a major sponsor of Pride marches and parades around the world.

In recent years, the Absolut Company, the Campari GroupAB InBev, and other big players have secured their corporate presence during Pride by sponsoring parades or affiliated events. A systematic review conducted in 2018 revealed that 61% of the Pride marches that disclosed their sponsors showed evidence of alcohol industry involvement. Some alcohol companies have come to solidify their longer-term participation through multiyear contracts with certain Pride organizing committees.

The increasingly sophisticated sponsorship tactics of the alcohol industry during Pride pose a real threat to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. Research suggests that alcohol industry’s sponsorship of Pride, much like the tobacco industry’s strategies, is a deliberate attempt to influence patterns of alcohol consumption and induce cravings in a group already at a disproportionately high risk of developing alcohol disorders. A wealth of evidence has shown that, relative to their heterosexual counterparts, members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to use alcohol at high-risk levels and experience alcohol-related social, psychological, or physical consequences. Such disparities in alcohol use have been noted to be even more significant for lesbian and bisexual women.

Against such a backdrop, this Pride season calls for the analysis of such tactics not just as LGBTQ+ marketing but also as another instance of corporate disease promotion that should be closely examined. The trend should prompt the public health community to explore the most effective methods for addressing this issue. From a health equity perspective, strong arguments exist for stringent restrictions of alcohol’s involvement in Pride due to the risk of harm posed by high-risk drinking patterns in the LGBTQ+ community. 

However, herein lies a complexity that the industry is trying to exploit: because Pride parades have become one of the most prominent vehicles for LGBTQ+ advocacy, Big Alcohol’s provision of resources to organizing committees could be seen as distinct from its typical sponsorship of sports and cultural events. At the very minimum, the annual parade format is the LGBTQ+ community’s vehicle to express its collective identity, campaign for their rights, and other explicit manifestations of protest and dissent in many countries. 

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