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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Religious Right Losing Market Power - Homophobia's a Money Loser

(Keywords and tags: , , to s is big and that's leaving groups like out in the cold)

A little more than a week ago, I wrote about the rightwing anti-gay group, American Family Association, and it's laughable boycott of Ford Motor Company.

Yesterday, as I was reading the paper, AFA's name popped out at me again. The Capital Times reports that AFA has sponsors of the Gay Games - an olympic style event - in their considerably ineffective sites.

Kraft Foods, the parent company of Madison's Oscar Mayer Co., remains a sponsor of this week's Chicago Gay Games despite condemnation by a conservative Christian group and an attempt by a shareholder to block it.

Kraft offers full employee benefits to all of its married couples and those with domestic partners, a corporate spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

Walgreens, another company with widespread operations in Wisconsin, and which also offers domestic partner benefits at all its locations, is a "premium global sponsor" of the Gay Games.

The American Family Association, a conservative group, has been particularly critical of Kraft, urging its members to call and write in protest.

I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were them. The article also reveals the mindset of Kraft shareholders.

Kraft's decision to support the eight-day event with a $25,000 donation prompted Kraft stockholder Marcella Meyer of Chicago to propose in a proxy statement that Kraft "disassociate itself" from the Gay Games and any future activities supporting "homosexual activity and lifestyle."

Meyer's proposal was rejected by 99 percent of stockholders.

Dang, looks like no one hates gays near enough anymore! Other sponsors include ESPN, QTG (which makes Quaker Oats), Tropicana, Gatorade, American Airlines, Pepsi, New York Times, Glaxo, Viacom, Sirius Satellite, and Disney. "Even before any weights are lifted, laps swum or races run, the Gay Games VII is looking like a big winner," says MarketWatch, "With more than $10 million worth of sponsorships already in hand -- and the possibility of a few million more to come -- this year's version of the alternative quadrennial sports competition is already the all-time money champion for any gay event in history."

According to MW, William Chipps, editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report, an industry newsletter, said that anti-gay and other pressure groups "do seem to have lost their power to a certain extent. Most corporations are now smart enough not to be scared by actions from small groups." The reason being that gays have become a target demographic, according to MW:

Gay media has been riding the wave for some time. In 2005 marketers spent just over $212 million in gay and lesbian publications, according to a survey by Rivendell Media. That was up just 2.5% from the prior year but almost 200% from 12 years ago. And ads are getting more focused.

Rather than simply repurposing mainstream ads, about half of those in the publications had "gay-specific" content -- a fourfold increase in just three years. Nearly 200 brands from Fortune 500 companies are advertising directly to the market.

And those kinds of numbers have helped insulate companies from any negative fallout.

"We have reached critical mass," said Howard Buford, founder and CEO of Prime Access Media, a multicultural ad agency in New York. "At this point, any kind of organized negative action is virtually untenable. In order to implement a [boycott], you have to have an alternative. Companies have found there is real strength in numbers on this."

A small bunch of religious nuts will never have the kind of market power it takes to sway these corporations. In the boycott business, groups like AFA are paper tigers.