Sydney’s Mardi Gras Puts Marketers In The Party Mood

ANZ Bank, Airbnb, and Google are among the big-name brands showing their support for the annual LGBTI event.

Sydney’s Mardi Gras Puts Marketers In The Party Mood

Sydney-siders’ annual walk on the wild side is now underway, when for two-plus weeks the city is awash in rainbow colours. The annual LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) Mardi Gras festival brings together an array of events spanning sports, theatre and performance, visual arts, talks and forums, a picnic in the park, spectacular parties, and, of course, the parade.

Indeed, Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade is among the world’s largest LGBTI celebrations. Every year 10,000 participants parade along Oxford and Flinders streets in a train measuring almost six kilometres (3.7 miles) long. Hundreds of thousands of spectators cheer on the parade and its glittering, music-pumping floats.

Some big brands also throw themselves into the spirit. ANZ Bank is one example: Simple transactions, such as taking out cash from an ATM, become a colourful experience, as one of Australia’s big banks replaces its normally blue cash outlets with GAYTMs.

Since 2014, the bank has taken its support of the festival to a more visible level.

“This was a significant point of distinction for our brand and a huge step forward in terms of how we use social media,” explained Carolyn Bendall, ANZ Australia’s head of marketing. “The GAYTMs provided us with a creative canvas to communicate our support for Mardi Gras and, more broadly, our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect.”

The 2014 campaign also marked the first time the bank used social channels exclusively to engage with its audiences.

“We aimed for 20 million media impressions and beat this by over 200%, generating over 62 million impressions through editorial content, media publications, the general public, and celebrities,” Bendall said. “The campaign spread to more than 70 countries worldwide.”

The bank’s 2015 campaign again focused on the GAYTMs, with an additional element of a competition where a town outside of Sydney could secure its own GAYTM for two weeks.

This campaign, Bendall said, generated more than 57 million social impressions. “We received around 20,000 votes and 78,000 video views,” she added.

This year, ANZ Bank has focused on displaying its support at the heart of the festival. ANZ’s Oxford Street branch–which is on the Mardi Gras Parade route–has been transformed into a GAYNZ branch. Taking inspiration from artistic-style Baroque, the walls are covered in 16 detailed murals, ranging from drag queens riding unicorns and puppies with wings, to fluffy poodles and gay penguins.

The murals were developed in consultation with the LGBTI community to reflect and celebrate the fun, diversity, and inclusivity of the Mardi Gras celebration.

Support For Rainbow Travellers

For Airbnb, the decision to support the Sydney Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras is an acknowledgement that the group has supported its business from the beginning.

“LGBTI people around the world have been early adoptors of Airbnb, hosting and travelling with pride, so we’re thrilled to support a community that has always embraced us,” said Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh.

Airbnb’s inaugural Mardi Gras campaign in 2015, in fact, drew international acclaim, winning top honours at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Other brands on board for this year’s event include Google, Qantas, Brown-Forman, Atlantis Events, and broadcast partner SBS.

Google, for example, has released a custom map called Places of Pride, which allows people attending the Pride event “Fair Day” to add rainbow Pride Pins to mark places that mean something special to them.

Social media platform Twitter also announced it has developed an emoji specifically for ANZ. Each time the hashtag #GAYNZ is used, a small rainbow flag will appear.

Risk vs. Respect For Diversity

ANZ’s Bendall acknowledged there are always risks and unknowns with marketing campaigns that target particular segments of the community.

“We don’t know what the reaction will be from the wider community; however, we work closely with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and ANZ’s Pride Network to ensure our campaign reflects our support of the LGBTI community in an authentic way,” she said. “We also know that what we do is true to our brand and our corporate agenda. Respect is a central corporate value. We believe in encouraging a diverse workforce. We’ve been supporting Mardi Gras for 10 years. and we have support right from the top of the organisation.”