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The Struggle Of Alcohol Brands Supporting, Yet Targeting The LGBT Community

Photo by Absolut/Illustrated by Sam Brosnan

Whenever a brand gets involved in a social movement, one of the first things you should wonder is if there is any shred of genuine interest, or are they just taking advantage of the moment.

In 2017, Pepsi got dragged when it chose supermodel Kendall Jenner to lead its Black Lives Matter-inspired commercial, and more recently Gillette caused quite a stir with its toxic masculinity-fueled commercial.

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With LGBT Pride Month approaching this June, we're already starting to see brands commit to LGBT products and promotions, and at least in Los Angeles, Pride Days are becoming a mainstay in professional sports, whether at Dodger Stadium or Banc of California Stadium, where the Los Angeles Football Club plays.

It's great to see strides are being made to celebrate the LGBT community and maintain a culture of acceptance that wasn't always there. The added awareness has become somewhat of a double-edged sword, however, and no brand is a better example of a cultural tug-of-war in this situation than Absolut Vodka.

Since at least 2012, Absolut Vodka has been very busy with their Pride campaigns, and just this week they announced their colorful Pride-inspired bottle would not only be available for Pride Month, but now permanently.

Absolut has had to tread carefully, however, as alcoholism has been a tragic subject in the LGBT community.

According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, "Up to 25 percent of the general LGBTQ community has moderate alcohol dependency, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population."

You can imagine the struggle of having such a huge brand wanting to support a movement, but at the same time having to deal with that kind of heartbreaking statistic.

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To further get a feel for this issue, Foodbeast designer Sam Brosnan, who identifies as part of the LGBT community, affirmed that "brand ties to the community helps increase exposure to LGBT issues," but at the same time conjure deserved concern that an alcohol brand is specifically targeting a community that is at an elevated risk for substance abuse.

From the moment Absolut publicly advocated for LGBT rights, to even now, the spirit brand has been questioned for their motives.

As the close-knit community has grown, so has the commercialization of it.

Obviously, sponsorship is critical in festivals, particularly Pride Festivals that often host hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of guests globally. As with festivals of any kind, food and drinks are standard, and it helps when brands like Absolut or even Skyy Vodka provide support.

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Skyy Vodka said it has supported LGBT rights for decades, being particularly vocal over the last five years in its support for gay marriage.  They've been known for teaming up with groups such as Freedom For All Americans, and even partnered with the LGBT-based Amazon Prime TV show, "Transparent."

Absolut at least seems genuine in its support, not only releasing Pride-inspired bottles over the years, but actually reaching out to the Pride flag's designer, Gilbert Baker, for help.

From there, they've partnered with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, collaborated in LGBT charity auctions, and in a unique promotion earlier this year released a bottle literally made from the extracted ink of hate signs and placards from protests around the world.

While the relationship between brand and social movement might always be a little torn, on the surface, Absolut seems to be bringing more good energy than bad.

So when you see that rainbow bottle in the liquor aisle, just know there is a lot of history and thought that has stemmed from it. In the end, it'll be up to you to decide if it is worthy of being the drink you chug during your next celebration.