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Absolut Vodka and the LGBTQ community

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Absolut Vodka and the LGBTQ community

With Absolut Vodka recently launching their new Absolut Elyx complete with a new LGBT campaign featuring their Pernaud-Ricard brands, we thought of looking back at the history between the vodka brand and the LGBT community.

After all, who here among us hasn’t made an effort to drink Absolut because they saw an ad of a rainbow-colored Absolut bottle in a LGBTQ magazine?

But it does make us wonder: is Absolut really supportive of inclusivity, or is it just a matter of pink washing?

Absolut Vodka & inclusivity marketing

Last week, Absolut Vodka launched their new LGBTQ campaign with a partnership with Equality California and celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility.

The multi-brand campaign, called “We’re Not You’re Average Family,” will target the LGBTQ market and will feature Absolut, Altos tequila, Jameson, Malibu and Absolut Elyx.

The event was gathered to help raise money for Equality California, the largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization.

Rick Zbur, Absolut Executive Director,said: “We’ve spent a lot of time responding to the threats of the Trump administration, including rollbacks on LGBTQ students in our schools and of course his doubling down on efforts to ban transgender people serving in the military.”

“We were one of four organizations to sue the Trump administration and we were successful in getting a nationwide injunction (in California)… and we know that it’s going to stand,” Zbur said.

Likewise, Daniel Clarke, Brand Director and Leader of the company’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, said that the campaign focuses on equality because “just like you, we believe all of our brands are equally tasty.”

Absolut Vodka & the LGBTQ community

So is this real or is Absolut just playing with us? Fortunately, it looks like Absolut has history on its side. What’s interesting is that the LGBTQ community also played their part.

This is because when Absolut first tried to import to the US in 1979, the LGBT community was an early adopter of the brand.

“We were on the outside looking in. Exactly the same thing happening with the LGBTQ community at the time,” Jeffrey Moran, Vice President of Influencer Engagement and Marketing Activation Services Pernod Ricard, told the Los Angeles Blade.

“We also had a pretty intrepid distributor who happens to lean into the gay community. He was a frequent patron of clubs such as Studio 54 in New York City, as well as others,”Moran said.

“And he started to look around and no brands are talking to the gay market. So, through relationships, he started to get the bars to stock the product, and get people to taste it and slowly he began to build up a consumer pull,” he added.

With these first steps, Absolut placed its first ad– “Absolut Perfection”– in gay publications like After Dark, The Advocate, and the New York Native in the 1980s, when nobody else in marketing was talking to the community.

Later on, this ad appeared in LGBT newspapers and magazines nationwide and in time, Absolut became LGBT media’s biggest advertiser.

Absolut Vodka in LGBTQ history

Since then, Absolut has established a number of long-term relationships with major LGBTQ organizations: 25 years with GLAAD, multi-year with Human Rights Campaign (HRC), as well as with Trevor Campaign and Equality California.

“Sometimes I feel brands opportunistically jump on the bandwagon. But the owners of Absolute are incredibly committed to the cause,” said Absolut Elyx CEO Jonas Tahlin during the fundraising event.

Gaia Gilardini, global comms director at Absolut, told Campaign that: “Through our marketing campaigns, we’ve always supported diversity– the right for people to express their true selves.”

Gilardini also wants other brands to embrace the cause of LGBT rights despite accusations of bandwagoning: “Having more brands joining this conversation is definitely good, because it allows people to discuss this topic.””

Since 1981, over US$ 31 million has been spent on marketing to the LGBT community, from print advertisements to sponsorship of public and private events, as well as supporting Pride parades.

Moreover, in 2008, Absolut marked the 30th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag as the symbol of the LGBTQ movement with a special rainbow-colored bottle and a call out: “You came out. Now share your story with the world.”

Moran said; “As a long-time supporter of the gay and lesbian community, we acknowledge that you can’t simply speak to gay men and lesbians as consumers, but instead need to make real connections to their lives which we believe we are achieving with our new creative executions.”

“As a company, we respect gay men and lesbians not simply in advertising messages, but behind the scenes as well. We’re not gay-washing here,” he added.

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