How Reebok, Ugg and other marketers incorporate inclusivity and COVID relief

Pride Month has arrived, and brands are showing their support in full force. Many had to postpone or rework Pride campaigns last year following the killing of George Floyd—revamping their efforts to include support for the LGBTQ+ Black community and switching to a virtual format during pandemic lockdowns.

This year—with most Pride parades across the country still happening virtually—the themes of racial equity as well as COVID-19 relief continue to emerge across campaigns.

“The intersection of these two cultural events highlighted the need for more inclusivity and intersectionality within Pride celebrations,” says Lisa Dubina, senior analyst, culture and identity, at market research firm Mintel. “As LGBTQ+ organizations and the community overall work to improve the intersectionality of Pride celebrations and advocacy, brands must also work to ensure their Pride marketing and outreach is inclusive and intersectional.”

In Mintel’s 2021 Marketing to LGBTQ+ Communities report, the firm found that 61% of LGBTQ+ adults believe the mission behind the Black Lives Matter movement aligns with the values of the LGBTQ+ community.

That awareness comes across in campaigns this year from Reebok, Ugg and Bombas while other efforts take on COVID-19 relief for communities in need. Virtual concerts, digital campaigns and, as always, rainbow-filled merchandise rule the month.


Footwear brand Reebok is using its 2021 Pride collection and campaign to pay homage to ballroom culture, an underground subculture that acted as a safe haven community for Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ youth when it originated in 1980s New York City. A new digital film created through Hype Empire, called “Fierceness Isn’t Born. It’s Made,” features the ballroom and voguing house Iconic House of Ninja, which was created in 1982 by Wili Ninja, known as the “Godfather of Vogue.”

Current members Archie Burnett, Javier Madrid, Aisha Murray and Elizabeth Rivera appear in the film and discuss how ballroom creates a safe space for the queer community while donning items from the brand’s new 2021 Pride collection. The All Type of Love unisex footwear and apparel collection is designed by Colorful Soles, Reebok’s LGBTQ+ employee community with a nod to the house’s vibrant history. The collection also features the Progress Pride Flag. Reebok is also donating $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which has a mission to guarantee gender identity rights to everyone, regardless of race or income.


Partnering with the Pacific Pride Foundation, Ugg has launched its sixth annual “Proud Prom” event that hosts local LGBTQ and allied youth from Santa Barbara, California, in a celebration of love and self-identity. This year, the virtual prom and campaign features Grammy-winning musician Lil Nas X, actor and writer Hari Nef, Ugg brand ambassadors Maya Samaha and Jordun Love and Pacific Pride Foundation members Mads Hamilton, Sky Limon, Roz Borah and the Brown family, who also share their stories around identity, family and LGBTQ+ representation online. The campaign features the brand’s Pride 2021 capsule collection which includes bold graphic T-shirts and especially highlights fuzzy Disco Stripe slides. For each pair of slides sold, the brand is donating $25 to GLAAD, up to $125,000.


Apparel brand Bombas has come out with a Pride line of flag-inspired socks, shirts and underwear with a diverse lineup of models sporting the items on Bombas’ website and social media. For every item purchased, Bombas will donate an item to BIPOC individuals in need through organizations including multicultural social services non-profit Casa Ruby and community health resource centers Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico and Mozaic.

P&G and iHeartMedia

Procter & Gamble and iHeartMedia, along with support from General Motors, The Art of Shaving, Tito’s Vodka and others, will livestream the second annual “Can’t Cancel Pride” virtual benefit concert on June 4 at 9 p.m. on iHeartRadio’s social channels including TikTok and YouTube, iHeartRadio’s PrideRadio.com, Revry and on iHeartRadio’s radio stations and app. The concert, which focuses on issues that impact the LGBTQ+ community such as the impact of COVID-19, will feature Bebe Rexha, Jennifer Hudson, Pink, Lil Nas X, Ricky Martin, JoJo Siwa, Busy Phillips and other artists. The event will also be available on demand until June 30.

The goal is to raise more than the $4 million distributed to LGBTQ+ communities in 2020. Like last year, the concert is partnering with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to distribute funds to LGBTQ+ organizations including GLAAD, SAGE, The Trevor Project, the National Black Justice Coalition, CenterLink and OutRight Action International.

“Can’t Cancel Pride is about creating visibility for the LGBTQ+ community and showing them they are not alone,” Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, said in a statement. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains heightened for LGBTQ+ people, who continue to face issues driven by persistent bias, intolerance and inequality. We want to use our voice to help bring much needed resources, support, acts of good and love to this remarkable and resilient community.


Unilever, behind Dove, Axe, Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s, aims to bring change to five cities that are among the worst places to live for LGBTQ+ people. The brand worked with agency RanaVerse and LGBTQ+ community strategist Sean Coleman to select five cities that failed the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index: Monroe, Louisiana; Moore, Oklahoma; Clemson, South Carolina; Florence, Alabama; and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. To highlight the issues of these cities, the company has selected Black female transgender filmmaker Tourmaline to create films that will go live starting June 7. Unilever will then work with local nonprofits in each city to combat issues faced by LGBTQ+ livelihoods.  

“There’s so much geographic privilege. But there are cities in America where people march for Pride in the true sense of the word and people are throwing stones attacking them,” Conor Feeney, senior marketing manager at Unilever North America, tells Ad Age. “We wanted to get outside of those city bubbles and focus on areas where we can really effect real change.”

Credit: Unilever

The Art of Shaving

Broadway took a major financial hit during the pandemic; actors, off the stage for more than a year, will finally return in September. The Art of Shaving, the shaving and skin care accessory retailer, has launched a campaign during Pride Month that comes with a $100,000 donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

The brand recruited Broadway talent Adam Perry (Frozen), Alex Wong (Newsies), L.Steven Taylor (The Lion King), Michael Arden (King Lear) and Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton) for a film where the performers harmonize together in their morning routine. The video is living on the brand’s website and social media channels. The Art of Shaving is also a sponsor of iHeartMedia’s “Can’t Cancel Pride” virtual concert.


For the second year, Jägermeister is partnering with the nonprofit The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative to raise money for LGBTQ+ safe spaces and centers as they reopen across the country. The initiative is hosting a free virtual concert at 8 p.m. EST today, and the German apéritif maker will match donations up to $25,000.

The concert will feature popular LGBTQ+ performers and influencer allies, including Jordin Sparks, Lance Bass, Amy Poehler, Sophia Bush, Margaret Cho, Chelsea Clinton, Melissa McCarthy and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The concert is also being sponsored by JetBlue, Saks Fifth Avenue, FCB Health New York and others. The effort is part of Jägermeister’s #Savethenight program, launched at the start of the pandemic to support the struggling nightlife economy.

Jägermeister is also premiering a documentary on its YouTube channel in partnership with The Lesbian Bar Project about its goal to save the remaining 21 lesbian bars in the U.S. In October 2020 the brand launched the initiative with a PSA narrated by “Orange is the New Black” star Lea DeLaria. 

“This Pride, we look forward to celebrating and bolstering the bars and venues that provide crucial safe spaces for individuals in some of the most challenging areas in the country to be LGBTQA+,” Chris Peddy, chief marketing officer at Mast-Jägermeister US, said in a statement.

Credit: Jägermeister

Skyy Vodka

Campari brand Skyy Vodka has been supporting LGBTQ+ rights since its 2015 “Toast to Marriage” campaign and says it is the first spirit brand to feature a lesbian couple in an ad. For Pride this year, the vodka has a new “Coming Out (Again)” social, digital and out-of-home campaign from agency Paper which calls for donations to support the LGBTQ+ hospitality industry. A new film features RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 winner Symone, pop star Kim Petras and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon. Skyy is also partnering with NYC Pride to launch the Skyy Nightlife Fund, starting with a $25,000 donation to LGBTQ+ performers and nightlife workers struggling during the pandemic.

“The hospitality industry plays a massive role in the lives of LGBTQ+ people and we are dedicated to supporting and celebrating its return in every way we can,” Bernadette Knight, senior marketing director of Skyy Vodka, said in a statement.


Playboy is launching its “Pride in Numbers” campaign today, which partners with five influencers in the LGBTQ+ community to design apparel products for Playboy with proceeds going to Playboy’s partner, APLA Health, formerly AIDS Project Los Angeles. The influencers, who include Kittens, Bretman Rock, Gigi Goode, Leo Baker and Ev’Yan Whitney, have created $40 T-shirts and $30 tote bags for sale at Playboy.com. Playboy is also publishing a photo essay from famed Indigenous queer photographer Lanee Bird to “highlight the resilience and connectivity of the LGBTQIA+ community during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Credit: Playboy


Skittles is again going gray for Pride Month, releasing limited-edition packages and candy devoid of their usual rainbow appearance. The Mars Wrigley brand is also partnering with LGBTQ+ media advocacy group GLAAD to donate $1 per pack purchased, up to $100,000. Packs can be found on Walmart.com, Target.com, in Target stores and at other select retailers. The brand says it will also support Pride in other ways throughout June and the rest of the year.

Credit: Skittles

Shake Shack

Shake Shack is showing its pride with its own Pride Shake—served in a Pride cup with its logo decked out in the colors of the Pride flag. The strawberry and blackberry frozen custard shake is topped with mango and passion fruit, whipped cream and rainbow glitter. The brand is donating a minimum of $50,000 from sales of the shake to The Trevor Project, the nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicides among LGBTQ+ youth.

This article first appeared in adage.com

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Ilyse Liffreing

Platforms Reporter, Campaign US

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