Marketing the Rainbow BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable - on OutBuro LGBTQ Community Social Networking Online Gay Men Lesbian Woman Bisexual Trans Transgender Nonbinary Queer dating

Marketing the Rainbow: BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable

Car brands have been targeting the LGBT consumer (especially the L and G) very early on – as buying a car involves quite a bit of money. Some brands focus on gay men, others typically on lesbians – but in recent years it’s mostly been ‘loading the brand’ with diversity, via lifestyle campaigns.

It is not only about convincing the LGBT to buy that car, but also to remain loyal to the brand (repeat purchases), and above all to recommend it to ‘relatives’ in the LGBT community (NPS, member get member). See also my articles A pink Cadillac?, Subaru – the ladies love it and Toyota, ally since 1992. Saturn was there early, and 20 years ago Mercedes also contributed. Their compatriot BMW started Marketing the Rainbow a little later, but has since shown a few nice campaigns. ‘Ride with Pride’, ‘Driven by Diversity’: the slogans write themselves.

Introduction

BMW is a German multinational company (est. 1916), which produces luxury automobiles and motorcycles in Germany, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the UK, and the US. They also own Mini and Rolls-Royce. The company has significant motorsport history, especially in Formula 1, sports cars and the Isle of Man TT: it’s all very masculine.

BMW’s corporate home page includes a section on Diversity, where they say: “For us, diversity means living a culture that is based on appreciation and respect, so that people of all origins can contribute and develop with their personality and identity. BMW Group PRIDE stands for exactly that. The network acts as the mouthpiece of the LGBT+ community where diversity, equality, trust, respect and inclusion come first. Together, we ensure a positive, tolerant and open work environment in which everyone is welcome regardless of their sexual identity.”

The beginning: a paradox

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It started in 2006 with a paradox: BMW of North America came under fire from Gaywheels.com – for advertising in gay and lesbian magazines. They called BMW hypocritical by targeting “the deep pockets” of gays and lesbians in publications like OUT and The Advocate, but didn’t offer domestic-partner benefits to employees. Their sister brands Mini and Rolls-Royce were already steps ahead. This changed in 2008, when BMW followed the colleagues, after which Gaywheels endorsed them as gay-friendly.

Local initiatives

A year before, a local dealer in Texas, Classic BMW, had started to look at the gay drivers. One ad stated “Being Out Has Never Been So In”. Another aimed at lesbians with the slogan “Freedom to Go Where You Want and Be Who You Are”.  A third ad was more neutral and stated: “It’s about respect”.

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Next steps

In 2007, they ran a teasing campaign which included billboards: the visual showed a convertible with the text “Hard Top. Firm Bottom. It’s so L.A.”, playing with words commonly known in the gay world. Another read: “When the top’s away, the car will play”. They were the work of David Morris Parson, who was rewarded with the Commercial Closet Award, for respecting diversity. However, the use of stereotypes was not appreciated by everyone. A market survey in Texas revealed that the target group found the ad, in particular the tagline, both offensive and insulting (sic.), because they used negative stereotypes, in this case the promiscuous gay.

Marketing the Rainbow BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable - on OutBuro LGBTQ Community Social Networking Online Gay Men Lesbian Woman Bisexual Trans Transgender Nonbinary Queer dating 4

BMW of North America was a top sponsor of the 2012 Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair of the National LGBT Bar Association.

In California, Berkeley Motor Works listed itself in the GayPinkSpots directory as gay-friendly BMW auto repair shop.

In Palm Springs, the BMW Performance Driving School considered itself to be a Palm Springs Area Destination, possibly of the gay kind, by being included on the visitgaypalmsprings.com website. 

In 2015, the BMW 2 Series received the Pink Brand of the Year Award in Belgium. They commented: “The LGBT community really likes our BMW 2 Series. This week, we received the Pink Brand of the Year Award and we are proud of it. Because sheer driving pleasure is for everyone.”

A report conducted in China in 2016 showed that “if you were to stereotype members of the LGBT community in China, you’d come to find that China’s gay men have deemed BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi to be their top three auto brands. Meanwhile, lesbians picked Land Rover, Lamborghini, and Mini Cooper.”

In New York, BMW and Bleu Magazine organized an “ultimate brunch”, celebrating the vibrant culture of the LGBT community, similar to a Chicago event.

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And now… “Thought Leadership”

In 2017, Hildegard Wortmann, Senior VP BMW, said: “To stay relevant to digital natives, who are more interested in smartphones than cars, automakers must be prepared to take more risks when positioning their brands and not shy away from edgy subject matter“. Since advertising no longer has the same reach, marketing executives need to be more willing to stretch the limits and be prepared to go directly to the customers and take a stance on key social issues such as gay and lesbian rights. She referred to it as providing “thought leadership.” Her team placed a specially designed BMW i8 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, making a connection with “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’  roll”. Taking the risk brought rewards as the social media impact was immediate with people posting pictures of themselves in front of the BMW i8. “We’re using their community in order to boost our message,” Wortmann said.

BMW i served as an official partner of the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival more than once. The festival is not specifically gay or gay-friendly though.

Vanity…

The story behind the British vanity licence plate “YES I GAY” is a bit vague and might be a hoax, as it appeared on two different silver BMW’s. The plate was not issued by BMW though, and just happened to be attached to one. Or two?

Marketing the Rainbow BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable - on OutBuro LGBTQ Community Social Networking Online Gay Men Lesbian Woman Bisexual Trans Transgender Nonbinary Queer dating 9

Unexplainable

In the 2018 campaign “Unexplainable”, a 30-second beautiful lifestyle video features a series of kisses at the end: one kiss is shared between two men. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Prides around the world

Over the years, they were present at – or supported – pride festivals around the world.

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WorldPride 2019

During the 2019 WorldPride in New York, there was an extensive program. BMW launched the #GoWithPride campaign: the programming included the creation of a custom wrapped BMW 8 Series, together with Jonathan Adler, who shared his journey to the WorldPride NYC Parade in the BMW 8 Series Convertible on BMWUSA’s Instagram page.

Marketing the Rainbow BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable - on OutBuro LGBTQ Community Social Networking Online Gay Men Lesbian Woman Bisexual Trans Transgender Nonbinary Queer dating 11

Also, there was a partnership with CNN, the “QUEER CITY: A CNN Experience”, a multimedia museum experience, which explored the real stories of people behind landmark moment in New York City’s queer history. At the location, BMW set up a photo booth, where visitors could take a picture expressing what Pride meant to them. These then became part of an exhibit wall thus including attendees into the festivities.

A fleet of #GoWithPride wrapped BMW 8 Series Convertibles carried the WorldPride Parade’s grand marshals. BMW partnered with GLAAD, outside of their NYC headquarters leading up to the weekend’s events. The company made a donation to GLAAD and provided food, beverages and giveaways, while a fleet of BMW X7 Sports Activity Vehicles delivered t-shirts to over 200 GLAAD volunteers.

2020 Driven By Pride

In 2020, while corona prevented Pride festivals to be celebrated “as usual”, BMW of North America launched a new campaign in celebration of Pride Month, entitled “Driven By Pride.” It featured various activations, including BMW’s support of The Trevor Project’s “Pride Everywhere” campaign, and communications across BMW’s digital channels.

NYC Pride hosted a special broadcast event featuring five custom-wrapped BMW 8 Series Convertibles. The vehicles featured blended rainbow colors that represent the entire Pride flag and LGBT+ community, as well as a special “PRIDE” BMW roundel design on the hood of each vehicle, replacing the BMW letters with PRIDE.  

Marketing the Rainbow BMW, from paradox to Unexplainable - on OutBuro LGBTQ Community Social Networking Online Gay Men Lesbian Woman Bisexual Trans Transgender Nonbinary Queer dating 12

Along with the car show, the event included live musical performances from Janelle Monae, Billy Porter, Deborah Cox and Luisa Sonza. In addition, the broadcast features grand marshals from the LGBT+ community, including Dan Levy of Schitt’s Creek. 

“While many of this year’s live Pride activities were cancelled out of necessity, BMW continues to stand with the LGBT+ community in this celebration of Pride and unity,” said Uwe Dreher, vice president of marketing, BMW of North America. “As the world continues to demonstrate for racial equality and justice amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more urgent time to celebrate togetherness and unity.” 

IDAHOBIT 2021

Through their employee platform, attention was given to the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 

2021 Driven By Pride

For the third year the Driven By Pride campaign was run. It featured designer LaQuan Smith rejoining forces with BMW to design original Pride vehicle wraps for the BMW 4 Series Coupe, following Smith’s role in BMW’s New York Fashion Week partnership.

The wrap was to be featured on five BMW 4 Series vehicles in the annual New York City Pride parade, which in the end only took place virtually.

For the same event, performer, activist and world-renowned drag queen, Shangela, joined BMW for digital content as part of the Pride campaign. She also joined GLAAD’s head of talent, Anthony Ramos, for an Instagram Live interview, sponsored by BMW.

Gay Games Munich

On Facebook the BMW Group PRIDE, together with “The Proud Wiesn”, one of the big LGBT+ Oktoberfest events – sponsored by BMW – rooted for their hometown Munich to be the host for the Gay Games 2026. Messages of support were also posted on Instagram. The honor went to Valencia.

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Conclusion

A little later than other car brands, BMW joined the rainbow train. This was selective and always befitting their luxurious character. Often cars were decorated in Pride colors, activities around Pride were sponsored or even organized. Outside of these events, the brand doesn’t do much, although the casual kiss in a TV commercial does earn points. There were also collaborations with various charities. They therefore score a 7.5/10.

Ella Slade - IBM's LGBTQ+ Global Leader Discusses New Study OutBuro lgbtq professionals entrepreneurs community gay lesbian transgender queer bisexual online community

Ella Slade – IBM’s LGBTQ+ Striving for Authenticity Report

In this episode of OutBüro Voices featuring LGBTQ professionals, entrepreneurs, and community leaders from around the world, host Dennis Velco chats with Ella Slade who is the LGBTQ+ Global Leader at IBM. We discuss the recently completed LGBTQ+ Striving for Authenticity report by IBM with support from LGBTQ+ organizations Out&Equal and Workplace Pride (link below). Be sure to watch or listen to this lively and insightful conversation.  

Ella started her career at IBM first as a college intern working in recruitment marketing covering Europe. They have been very involved in the LGBTQ+ and were active in the IBM LGBTQ+ employee resource group. They loved IBM’s culture and was able to return to IBM after completing their degree entering the global recruitment team. Within that role, they began focusing on diversity in its full spectrum yet with a keen interest in LGBTQ+ talent. Ella spearheaded getting IBM involved in Pride Month to market career opportunities. In doing so, Ella saw their future dream job which they now hold. They support all LGBTQ+ issues and groups for IBM around the globe. Listen in for their full description.  

IBM Logo Design 1972 present

Link to full the full report (or click the IBM logo): https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/lgbt-inclusion 

In creating the LGBTQ+ Striving for Authenticity report, IBM conducted a survey and a jam. Ella explains that a jam is like a musical jam where musicians play their instruments and through the chaos, a beautiful melody emerges. It’s taking that concept and applying it to other things. The jam was an online advanced forum with different threads including people from all over the world over a 34 hour period. It provided a deep level of contextual understanding layered with the survey.  

The report reconfirms what other studies have indicated that 45% of LGB employees still face discrimination base on sexual orientation. This is coupled with only 46% of LGBTQ+ employees are out at work.  9% of all Jam participants communicated that they do not represent their gender authentically at work. 65% of LGB respondents felt they had to work harder than their coworkers to succeed. the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an outsized burden on LGB caregivers. 43% of LGB respondents say they have struggled balancing working from home with taking care of other family members, compared with 34% of non-LGB people. More than two-thirds of LGB people say they don’t feel equipped to overcome professional challenges, which speaks to a need for stronger support and enablement networks.  The report provides clear actions employers can do to foster an inclusive work culture that benefits all employees. These included policies, benefits, employee training, use inclusive language, using pronouns of choice, and using the brand for good.  

Join me and Ella on OutBüro, the LGBTQ professional and entrepreneur online community network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, allies, and our employers who support LGBTQ welcoming workplace equality focused benefits, policies, and business practices.  https://www.OutBuro.com 

Would you like to be featured like this? Contact the host Dennis Velco.  https://outburo.com/profile/dennisvelco/