Nike takes a bold stand by giving endorsement deals to LGBT players.
Thus far this year, the coming-out of professional American athletes Jason Collins, Fallon Fox, Brittney Griner and Robbie Rogers has strengthened the push of the LGBTQIA+ community to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports. Some brands have backed this effort as well—notably Nike, which signed basketball players Collins and Griner to endorsement deals after they came out. It’s one indication of how brands will need to become more boldly supportive if they want to reach these consumers—who represent significant spending power—along with their loved ones.
Earlier in June (Pride Month), Nike hosted its second annual LGBT Sports Summit to formalize a coalition of athletes, coaches, political advocates and organizations committed to ending anti-LGBT bias in sports. Nike’s second #BeTrue Collection benefits the LGBT Sports Coalition. And the company, which was among the 70 businesses and organizations to file a friend-of-the-court brief backing the drive to defeat the Defense of Marriage Act, praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to end DOMA earlier this week. Another supporter is the NFL Players Association, which is selling LGBT Pride shirts and donating the net proceeds to Athlete Ally. And some collegiate teams and professional players are encouraging LGBTQIA+ consumers to join their teams and fan bases via the You Can Play Project.
In a recent Pew study of LGBT consumers, 51 percent reported refusing to purchase a product or service because of “a lack of support for LGBT rights.” As Michael Wilke of the AdRespect Advertising Educational Program told The New York Times, “It’s not about being inclusive to stand out, it’s about being inclusive to blend in.” More brands are now integrating LGBT-friendly messages into mainstream media rather than niche platforms, as The Times reported this week. And those messages are moving from basic support to celebration. At the LGBT Sports Summit, that shift in tone was also apparent among the participants, who are now pushing for more than mere tolerance as that goal is already becoming a reality.