Big Alcohol is Still a Big Problem in San Francisco Pride

June 14, 2017 in inQueery

A still from Bud Light’s Pride Month advertisement.

Editor’s Note:  The following piece was written last year by Amelia Henry about the alcohol sponsorship of 2016 Pride.  Despite growing concern, not much has changed:  this year Bud Light is one of the Principal Sponsors, and Smirnoff is a still-prominent  Grand Sponsor.  While some ad campaigns, like this Absolut Vodka one featuring a trans character (who is actually a trans actress!) have tried to carry an affirming message, they are still problematic both in their representation and in terms of the product that they push.  Other ads, like Bud Light’s depiction of their beer being served at a same-sex wedding, seems like the same old profit-driven story. 

What do you think about Big Alcohol’s relationship with Pride?  Weigh in below, in the comments!


In recent years, we have seen support for the LGBTQIA+ community increase rapidly. Hooray! It’s wonderful to see legal validation of same-sex marriages,  more trans and queer representation in television and film, and defense of our rights when they’re attacked. However, you also see more ad campaigns that show support of our community, too. Even though this seems positive, the commercialization of LGBTQIA+ support can be problematic, opportunistic, and even detrimental to the community.

At the beginning of this month, Bud Light released a commercial set at a same-sex marriage. We’ve seen this all before- last year, Tiffany and Co’s same-sex engagement ads surprised and therefore circulated, and the year before, Honey Maid’s “This is Wholesome” ad did the same. Though the latter are harmful in their own way, the Bud Light commercial is downright predatory. Why? Because alcohol addiction within the LGBTQIA+ community is estimated to reach anywhere from 30% up to 45%. Those numbers are staggeringly steep and look even worse compared to the national rate of 8%. However, the ads are not the worst of it.

If you look at the sponsors page for San Francisco Pride this year, you can see that one-third of its sponsors are alcohol companies. Its Grand Sponsor this year is Smirnoff. Though the monetary support from these companies is probably necessary, their support of Pride is predatory and harmful to our community. If San Francisco Pride is anything like it was last year, the place will be packed with booths selling alcohol and drunk people partying.  Not only is this unsafe for members of our community that already struggle with alcohol addiction, but new members and queer youth will go to events like Pride and might think that in order to fit into our culture, they have to partake in the drunken debauchery. When I went to my first pride, that’s certainly how I felt. This is a major problem for our community because when we have rates of alcoholism like we do, our major events cannot be centered around drinking and getting drunk. Predatory companies make alcohol available and perpetuate that kind of atmosphere while profiting off of our addictions, and it is on them that Pride has become what it is. However, we have to do something to fix it.We have to protect our community, especially our youth, and oust the booths and the booze from our major events.

The commercials that are not alcohol related are still harmful because of their exclusionary natures and profits off of sparse support. Almost half of people under 35 said that they were likely to repeat business with an LGBT-friendly business. Google searches for Honey Maid went up 90% after it came out with those ads. Large companies make easy money off of a little support and nothing else. Not only do they profit off of us without giving us anything tangible in return, but they perpetuate a singular view of our community and our issues. Take a look at the Tiffany’s ad, or the Honey Maid ad, or this Campbell’s soup ad, or this Allstate ad, or this Banana Republic ad– see any patterns? All of these contain white, gay men. Of course there are some ads out there with white lesbians to shake it up a little. Oh, and here’s one where the couple is interracial. Besides ads for alcohol companies, there was only one ad campaign with a trans person in it that I could find. Though trans and qpoc exclusion is ubiquitous, the ads supporting white gays and and ignoring the vast and complex issues that trans people and qpoc face perpetuate that exclusion.

I love representation. I am so happy that more and more diverse members of the LGBTQIA+ community are becoming publicly visible. However, I want alcohol companies to stop profiting off of our addictions. I want other companies to stop using us as marketing tools and stop perpetuating a singular view of our community. I know that realistically, Pride needs a lot of money in order to maintain itself and has to accept money from and give selling space to alcohol companies. I know that there is nothing anyone can do to make companies change their advertisements.  All we can do is spread awareness about the motivations and impacts of commercialization and look out for one another in the face of these corporations.



Amelia Henry is a Contributor at InQueery.