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DHL Goes the Extra Mile for Pride with Sports Partnerships Activation

While current headlines in marketing and sports business media outlets focus on how brands and sports organizations are, or are not, responding to Friday’s monumental U.S. Supreme Court ruling, this week also marks the last few days of the month celebrating LGBTQ+ pride—another area where marketers often struggle with messaging and showing up authentically.

Although far too many brands equate a temporary rainbow logo to making a commitment to LGBTQ+ equality, inclusion and visibility, a growing number are getting it right, including DHL.

For the past two years, the international logistics and shipping company has done something most other major sports sponsors have so far been reluctant to do: Use its partnerships in a major way to showcase its support of LGBTQ+ pride.

In the U.S., that has taken multiple forms surrounding the company’s sponsorship of the Andretti Autosport No. 28 entry in the NTT IndyCar Series. In 2021, the car featured a “Delivered with Pride” livery at the two IndyCar races that take place in June—in Detroit and Elkhart Lake, Wis. For this year, sponsor and team upped the ante and launched the program in May in order to feature pride messaging at the sport’s biggest event by far, the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

The activation did not stop with changing the colors of the car and the logos on the uniforms of the crew and driver Romain Grosjean, however. DHL offered replica jerseys with the pride logo for sale on site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar trackside stores, as well as online at Proceeds benefited GLSEN, an educational organization that works to end discrimination, harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

DHL and Andretti Autosport also encouraged and supported the thousands of students participating in a nationwide day of silence, a GLSEN initiative and national student-led demonstration in which LGBTQ+ students and allies take a vow of silence to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in schools.

Internationally, DHL used its platform as an official sponsor of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to similar effect, featuring the “Delivered with Pride” messaging on trackside banners and grandstand signage, as well as DHL employee uniforms at the Shell Recharge Berlin E-Prix race. The company also produced digital video content hosted by Formula E commentators and including appearances from German drag queen Candy Crash.

Global activation includes a tie-in with the FIA Girls on Track program at races in Mexico City, Berlin and Jakarta. The initiative offers girls age 8 to 18 the chance to engage with career opportunities in all aspects of motorsports.

Although there are many ways to demonstrate a company’s commitment to a cause, it is especially noteworthy for a company to not only “preach to the choir,’ but also take its LGBTQ+ pride messaging into an unexpected space such as auto racing. The positive response DHL has received from its employees and customers on social media at least anecdotally indicates positive results for the brand and the business.

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