Is it too risky for brands to sponsor gay events in conservative Singapore?

Pink Dot SGThis week, a government minister in Singapore warned foreign companies in the conservative island nation against creating “division” with its recruitment practices in a Facebook post. He was referring to financial services group Goldman Sachs, which is pro-gay in who it chooses to employ, and sponsors gay event Pink Dot SG. The story was picked up by BuzzFeed, which ran with the headline ‘Top Singapore Official Attacks Goldman Sachs Over LGBT Student Event’.

Given such sensitivities in Singapore, is it – dare it be said – risky for brands to sponsor gay events such as Pink Dot SG? Mumbrella asked executives from local media and advertising firms what they think.

Jeffrey SeahJeffrey Seah, CEO, Southeast Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group

This is a proverbial target audience issue. Singapore is an international city or corporation, some may say. There are no restrictions on marketing stances a business chooses to take.

It is not a risk for Goldman Sachs if their intended objective is to inform the world of their no-discrimination view. Any support or backlash, however partisan, should be expected as with all secular communities.

That said, as with all marketing, one has to read the ground and adapt to the market. Singapore has a high proportion of residents from Asian territories – India, China and Malaysia, for example – all steeped with traditional values and norms.

Goldman Sachs has to decide if they want to “market to the market”, or “make the market”.

Fiona BartholomeuszFiona Bartholomeusz, managing director, Formul8

I don’t think any clients are currently open to sponsoring LGBT events, as much as they are well aware that they form an important and lucrative segment of high net worth individuals. It’s a pity, as we’ve tried to champion campaigns skewed to chasing the pink dollar. They are after all, some of the most stylish, well-informed and upwardly mobile individuals we know. We’re just not as progressive a nation as we think we are, alas.

Adam HemmingAdam Hemming, CEO, Zenith Optimedia Singapore

I think brands should not care one jot about the small number who would be offended.

Pat LawPat Law, founder, Goodstuph

I feel it’s dependent on who the target audience is for brands. It’s perhaps low on returns should Huggies sponsor a gay event. But I can see why it may be fitting for Abercombie & Fitch. Frankly, I do not think Goldman Sachs’s sponsorship of Pink Dot is about to run the company to its grave. Chan Chun Sing is not Nick Leeson.

Daniel NgDaniel Ng, founder, Day 28

Singapore is a fairly open society and sponsoring a gay event basically just shows how open and supportive the brand is. I guess the risk only comes in when the brand is targeting a more traditional group of audience, and that is a subject of relevance rather than risk, like any other form of sponsorship.


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