- Smirnoff is deploying a network of LGBTQIA+ influencers, including Laverne Cox ("Orange is the New Black"), Alyssa Edwards ("RuPaul's Drag Race") and Jonathan Van Ness ("Queer Eye"), for a multichannel campaign debuting around NYC Pride this month, according to a press release. New York will put on the world's largest Pride celebration as the host of World Pride, which this year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that occurred in the city.
- For the "Welcome Home" campaign, Cox stars in a digital video series running on Smirnoff's social media channels and in displays around the LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark International airports. In the videos, the actress and activist greets the expected millions of tourists who will visit the city to attend NYC Pride. In downtown Manhattan, Van Ness will host a House of Pride pop-up experience from June 26-28. The 21-plus venue will serve globally themed cocktails and feature six "Insta-worthy" rooms dedicated to depicting different aspects of LGBTQIA+ history and the community's future, Smirnoff said.
- On the day of the Pride parade on June 30, Smirnoff will run a float supported by 300 marchers and stewarded by Edwards, who will be decked out as a "Lady Liberty" character. The brand will also release two limited-edition bottles tied to inclusivity messaging, along with providing donations to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Smirnoff is pulling out a number of stops to capitalize on a historic World Pride event in New York City, partnering with influencers from the LGBTQIA+ community to support digital video, experiential and product marketing efforts. The campaign looks to target both local and visiting celebrators, with activations touching across airports, pop-ups and the eventual parade on June 30. The vodka maker sees a clear opportunity in catering to a massive, engaged consumer base that industry research indicates is largely underserved.
"While 85% of LGBTQIA+ consumers want their community represented in brand campaigns, only 12.6% of marketers actually include them in their annual media planning," Jay Sethi, VP of Smirnoff for Diageo's North American operations, said in a press statement.
The executive's comments reference two separate sources: a Community Marketing and Insights report (providing the 85% figure) and a study by the now-shuttered digital media vertical INTO, which was owned by the dating app Grindr and worked with Brand Innovators to uncover the most LGBTQIA+-friendly brands (hence the media planning statistic). The INTO and Brand Innovators study from last May revealed that 35% of surveyed consumers are more likely to buy from brands that feature LGBTQIA+ themes and people in their campaigns — an insight Smirnoff is looking to draw from with the sale of limited-edition bottles. Smirnoff has previously sold Pride-themed vodka, and plans to donate $1.5 million to HRC through 2021 for its "Love Wins" product initiative.
More brands have started running advertising campaigns around Pride, but some face scrutiny for only spotlighting LGBTQIA+ consumers during a limited time window or through low-effort, "slacktivism" means. The growing presence of corporations and commercialization at annual Pride celebrations has also drawn criticism that these events are moving too far away from their more political roots, which are intended to recognize acts of bravery and protest during the contentious Stonewall riots, as reported in Vox.
Smirnoff could avoid backlash by working with LGBTQIA+ ambassadors who participate in activism and work with the brand outside of Pride-related campaigns, along with recognizing the significance of Stonewall. Donations to HRC also layer in an aspect of the type of cause marketing that tends to resonate with consumers and particularly young audiences, like millennials and Gen Zers, who are generally more choosy about the brands they purchase from.
Smirnoff and parent organization Diageo have received a perfect score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQIA+ workplace equality for the past 11 years, per the release.