Delta Kicks Alaska Airlines Out Of Seattle’s Gay Pride Event

Filed Under: Alaska, Delta

Yesterday I posted about how Delta pulled their sponsorship from The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, a non-profit historic landmark. They did this because the theatre let Qatar Airways rent space from them, as they weren’t aware of the rivalry between the two airlines. The explanation from Delta’s chief legal officer would be hard pressed to come across as any more petty.

As we know, Delta is fighting battles on many fronts, not just against Gulf carriers. They’ve also been feuding with Alaska in Seattle, as they try to hugely grow their presence there. Their marketing in Seattle isn’t even based around their product as such anymore, but rather around wanting to make an emotional connection with Seattleites, claiming they’re at the “center of it all.”

Well, for over a decade, Alaska has been participating in Seattle’s gay pride event. For example, last year they had over 50 people marching in the parade. But it looks like that won’t be happening this year, because Delta isn’t letting them. Per The Seattle Times:

You won’t see the hometown airline this year, though. That’s because its rival, Delta, just secured a three-year sponsorship deal for Pride Parade 2016 that excludes Alaska employees from marching if they are identified by the name “Alaska Airlines” or branded with any corporate logos.

“Our employee group can be in the parade, but not identified as working for Alaska Airlines or wearing Alaska T-shirts or any branding,” said Kevin Larson, vice president of the Gay, Lesbian, Other and Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) group, representing about 300 workers at Alaska.

Since Delta bought the category sponsorship, that prevents any other airline from participating (I guess in the past the category sponsorship wasn’t bought, since multiple airlines participated):

“We can’t have them promoting Alaska Airlines when Delta bought the category sponsorship,” said Colin Bishop, a public-relations spokesperson for the Seattle Pride Parade. “That would be free marketing. When T-Mobile’s in there, we don’t have groups marching from AT&T or Verizon.”

A spokesperson for Alaska, Bobbie Egan, said that when Alaska was a sponsor in the past it had arrangements for placement in the parade’s marketing materials. But it didn’t bar rival airlines from being in the parade.

In fact, in the past, employee groups from both Delta and Alaska have paraded in full company regalia, seemingly without incident.

“We decided that given these restrictions, we would celebrate that weekend in different ways, at different events,” Egan said.


On one hand I can’t fault Delta for being a big sponsor. At the same time, perhaps this is mostly just a reflection of how corporate these events have gotten. It’s ironic that these events stand for inclusion, yet end up being highly exclusive.

In my opinion it shouldn’t be possible to buy a category sponsorship, and prevent “competitors” from marching as well. Isn’t the whole point of a “pride” parade to show that the community supports a cause, and isn’t that undermined when you’re only allowing those companies willing to pay the most to participate?

I’m not sure whether to just blame the system they have in place, or to blame Delta. I will say that if Delta really wants to get into bed with the Seattle community, maybe they should be inclusive and come across as the bigger brand, rather than being petty and literally preventing a beloved Seattle company from participating in an event intended to celebrate inclusion.

They really don’t understand Seattle culture if they think they’re going to make friends by preventing another company from participating in an event like this.

What do you make of Alaska being kicked out of Seattle’s pride event?

(Tip of the hat to Michael)

  1. In my mind, only one category should get exclusive sponsorship for their category, and that is when a company buys naming rights to the event. Only then are they in a position to deny competitors. Otherwise it is whichever company will write the check.

  2. Next up: Delta pulls out of some sports sponsorship deal in Japan when they fail to get all the HND slots they’re requesting.

  3. This is on the organizers for allowing the clause in the contract. Corporate greed overrides “what is right” in today’s world. If you expect more from Delta just be prepared to be let down.

  4. I thought one of the deepest entrenched meanings of a gay pride parade was celebrating inclusiveness. Obviously Seattle Gay Pride forgot that in the name of money. Complete and utter BS.

  5. Delta has shown rather thin skin, for sure. But corporations are going to act like corporations.

    I think it’s mainly the fault of the organizers who took money for a sponsorship that allowed the sponsor to exclude others. They didn’t have to do that.

  6. Seems like a first amendments violation. What are they going to do if an individual where’s an Alaska Airlines tshirt, arrest them? If AS doesn’t so any formal irganization, what can they do?

  7. Why are you (yet again) blaming Delta when it is Seattle’s Gay Pride organization that made this decision? Especially since they noted the precedent of having done that with other industries as well (cell phones). Was there something preventing Alaska Airlines from buying the category sponsorship deal instead? Seems like a ‘hometown airline’ would have already had that deal all sewn up. Shame on Alaska for dropping the ball.

  8. Not a great move by Delta. More free publicity for Qatar and they alienate their loyal Atlanta flyers like me at the same time. I am loyal to Delta and have been a Diamond living in Atlanta for the past 6 years, but really hope Qatar steps in at the Fox. I have a hard time imagining Qatar will be successful on that route anyway.

  9. @Beachfan first amendment only applies when one of the parties involved is the government. If both are private parties it probably will move over to contract/tort law.

  10. Who cares…I won’t fly Delta because they did sponsor it.

    This should be renamed the GayBoardingArea. WAY too much of a slant in the posts.

  11. So what? The streets of Seattle ae public places where I can wear “Alaska Airline” t shirts. How will it be enforced that I can’t walk on the street in my own tshirts, that isn’t show anything vulgar (when the streets are locked from vehicle traffic) during the parade. I understand Putin can send his cronies to beat up, arrest anyone they choose on the streets of Moscow, but in a liberal free town like Seattle, how can a company/business say you can’t walk in those tshirts on the public streets of Seattle during a parade? Anyone? Anyone? Buler? Buler?

  12. By the way, your title is shamefully misleading since it wasn’t Delta that kicked out Alaska, it was Seattle Gay Pride organization that did it. Your bias is obvious, but I don’t think you ever represented yourself or your reviews as unbiased. Sometimes posts like this just serve as a reminder.

  13. Lucky – “At the same time, perhaps this is mostly just a reflection of how corporate these events have gotten.”

    This is ENTIRELY a reflection of how corporate stuff like this has gotten. It’s just the way the world works now, and Delta didn’t invent it.

  14. These events have gotten much too corporate. In Salt Lake City, for example, corporations outnumber LGBT groups in the pride parade now. One reason is because many local LGBT groups that have previously marched for decades in the parade are prevented this year from participating due to the sponsors not letting them march in favor of corporate sponsors.

  15. Blame Seattle Pride on this one. From the article, it even states the Alaska Airline lgbt employee group can march in the parade, but not wearing Alaska Airlines logos. Nowhere did I read in the article that Delta is banning Alaska from marching. In fact, Delta followed all the rules; it’s not like they specifically negotiated with Seattle Pride to eliminate all promotions from competitor. Seems to me this also has happened in the past with ATT and Verizon not wearing any of their logos since TMobile is the major sponsor.
    Thus, the blame really goes to Seattle Pride for not being inclusive in its contracts with its sponsors.

  16. Quite unfortunate. So much for the “healthy competition” that Delta touts at Qatar.

    Seattle Pride should (and previously have) allowed multiple groups from the same industry march as long as they each contributed– its not like Alaska would’ve thrown a hissy fit if Delta also joined. Delta for sure would a la Fox Theatre.

  17. @iwcline: A.MEN. It’s a double-standard on both the organizers of gay pride as well as Delta to create an atmosphere of exclusion, not inclusion. All I the name of corporate greed.

    Shameful. Disgusting, frankly. Another reason why Delta is the worst.

  18. If I were the Alaska team I would wear t-shirts with the state of Alaska on it, or from the University of Alaska, etc etc etc. There are endless ways to wear the word “Alaska” without specifically referencing Alaska Airlines.

  19. The Seattle Pride organization’s own mission statement says that they stand for unity. How is banning GLBT people from marching in a Pride parade unifying?

    Pride is about celebrating inclusiveness… Not saying “You’re not welcome here.”

    Good job Alaska for sponsoring in the past and not banning Delta from participating. I guess we can see which company truly supports the GLBT community.

  20. There’s more than enough blame to go around. Speaking as a 50 year old gay man, I think Pride events have outlived their usefulness, at least in American cities. Over the decades they have become too focused on the more crass side of gay life, celebrating alcoholism, ageism, and the go-go boy ideal over community and diversity. You can bet there will be multiple liquor manufacturers represented than airlines or cell phone carriers.

  21. As an LGBT person, I don’t like this one bit. You can’t sell off the right to march wearing your own tshirts in the pride parade–everybody is in and nobody is out. The pride committee needs to take this down a couple notches.

    (And I don’t have an opinion on the larger delta vs Alaska battle)

  22. Why would a corporate sponsor want the competition included if the bought exclusive rights? Stop stirring the pot Lucky.

  23. The anti-Delta bias on this blog is spinning out of control. To recap the actual facts: (1) the organizers of the Seattle Pride Parade made the decision to offer exclusive corporate sponsorships; (2) DL bought the rights to be the exclusive airline sponsor (which Alaska presumably had equal opportunity to acquire, but did not); and (3) pursuant to the terms of the sponsorship offered by the Pride Parade, other airlines cannot use their branding at the parade.

    This is no different than DL buying the rights to be the official airline of the Seattle Seahawks (which it did) or Alaska buying the rights to be the official airline of the Seattle Mariners (which it did).

    Any complaints about exclusion or making the event too corporate should be directed to the Pride Parade organization, not to DL. And this is not a “DL bad, Alaska good” situation — Alaska would have gladly bought up the sponsorship if Delta had not beat them to the punch.

  24. Terrible move by the Alaska Pride Committee and shameful act by Delta. However, who cares? If my family and I all show up with AS shirts, how on earth are they going to enforce it??????

    In fact, I may just get my entire street and neighborhood to sport AS shirts!!

  25. @me:

    Bye, Felicia. Take you blog patronage to another right-wing leaning, Focus on the Family-affiliated frequent flyer-themed post.

  26. The article quotes Colin Bishop and others at Seattle Pride. Here is the contact information from their website:
    Phone: 206 322 9561


    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    Rather than express disgust here, call or email them. Double standards never work. I agree that this will be a blessing for Alaska.

  27. Shame on Delta. They missed the point of the parade and celebrations entirely. This must be an embarrassment to their local employees in Seattle.

    What was it one of the United flight attendants told her new boss a year or so ago – “I’m tired of have to apologize.” Well, Delta personnel in Seattle may soon be feeling the same way.

    I’m glad I keep my miles on Alaska Air. I will continue to do so.

  28. On one hand this seems like a childish move, but at the same time it’s nice to see that Delta would sponsor Pride. I bet you won’t see any of the middle east carriers everyone here fawns over sponsoring such an event.

  29. I have to be with Mark F. on this one. This is how corporate sponsorships work.

    Alaska, “a beloved Seattle company,” had every opportunity to purchase a high-level corporate sponsorship. They didn’t.

    Delta did.

    And this is Delta’s fault how? Perhaps if Alaska were more of a hometown airline, they wouldn’t be dropping the ball like this.

    And, Ben, beloved? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here with lionizing Alaska. I’d go as far as “well-liked” and leave it at that.

  30. I think Alaska should buy the salt lake sponsorship and allow Delta employees to participate.

  31. I’m with Nick and Mark F. And to whoever it is up there that’s not flying Delta because they’re sponsoring a gay pride…do a quick google search for literally every other major US airline and see what you’re left with…enjoy the bus.

  32. “And, Ben, beloved? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here with lionizing Alaska. I’d go as far as “well-liked” and leave it at that.”

    I’m surprised it’s still beloved, given the recent Emirates awards devaluation.

  33. Cardboard tail cutouts of the Alaska Airlines new branding Eskimo Face with the face cutout and placed on a wooden stick. Pass these out everywhere you can the day of the parade. Let the Delta float be faced with a sea of people looking at them through their cutouts. Goodbye Delta.

  34. To make the irony complete, on the same day you chastise about Delta giving money to support gay organizations, you have a post where you are actually considering giving money to a Saudi airline. I love reading your blog and learning a lot from you, but you are all over the map on this one.

  35. Blame goes entirely to Seattle Pride. I am so disgusted that the pride parades have been so morally degraded by this pandering to corporate sponsorships. I so very fondly remember my first gay pride parade way back in 1979 during my university days in Boston. There wasn’t any of this corporate bullshit back then. It was just 30,000 gays and lesbians joyfully celebrating and having a lot of fun out in the open. Gay youth and millennials will regretfully never know the thrill and empowerment of those early pride celebrations.

    I agree with what others have said: what is going to stop a bunch of Alaska employees from wearing AS tees and marching anyway??

  36. Shame on both airlines for supporting perversion and leading the way of America’s moral decline.

  37. More reprehensible over-reacting.

    First of all the Seattle Times article is inaccurate & Delta is issuing statements to Seattle media that says so. There is no rule to prevent Alaska employees from marching together.

    It’s just the latest stupid response of Alaska homers up here who act like Delta is bringing a Zika virus here – aided this time by Danny Westneat the Times’ columnist who loathes anything not Seattle pure. His classic piece you read made no effort to speak to Delta. Shameful journalism…which does seem redundant these days.

  38. Delta is the Donald Trump of airlines. Petty, whiny, and thin skinned while simultaneously bragging about themselves at every conceivable opportunity. This is so typical of their culture.

  39. Seattle Pride and specifically Mr. Bishop – Shame on you and your group for even writing a contract that excludes. Hypocrite much?

    LGBT Community – Time to find another group to represent the values and needs of the community as this one has fallen to the almighty dollar not you.

    Delta – Thank you for showing Seattle your true intent and values. I will NEVER fly on Delta ever again. I would rather walk anywhere on land or row a boat over water on the globe than fly with Delta.

    Alaska – Thank you for being a part of this Pacific Northwest community and representing the culture and values of who we are. Hats off to you for taking the high road on this.

  40. @Derrick and which is airline is the Obama of airlines? 19 trillion in debt, give away more than we take in (smart), let people break the laws and cross the boarders whenever, cry, bitch, moan, more people on welfare than EVER and the list just goes on.

    Love Delta!

  41. Jeez, does the US still need gay pride parades in every city with a population in excess of 100,000? Is it 1969 and Stonewall?

    It really pisses me off that I have to defend Delta 2 days after the horrid C+ rules went into effect, but Ben, you’ve got to give it a rest. Atlanta is my hometown airport and yesterday was a fairly typical return flight home. Friendly, professional FA’s, landed 15 minutes early at 6 PM at ATL, taxied immediately to our gate, after deplaning walked as fast as I could to baggage claim and my bag was already on the carousel. Within 18 minutes of touching down I was on my way out of the airport to my car. That is by far my typical experience on Delta. That’s why I will continue to fly them. Period.

    Ben now you just seem petty and vindictive towards Delta. The same way you rightly accuse their management team of acting.

  42. As Craig wrote above, it appears that the Seattle Times story was just plain wrong:

    From Delta: “While our sponsorship allows us to display Delta branding at the event, Delta has in no way restricted the participation or attire of any individual or group participating in Seattle Pride events”

    From Seattle Pride: “The article posted in the Seattle Times seems to confuse sponsorship of the Parade with marching in the Parade. While it is true that Seattle Pride offers many different sponsorship opportunities to our business partners, those sponsorship opportunities do not have, and have never had, any influence on the participation of any group, business, or individual in the Seattle Pride Parade . . . Seattle Pride has never and would never prevent a member of our community, like Globe (the the LGBT employee affinity group of Alaska Airlines), from marching in the Seattle Pride Parade”

  43. You’re absolutely right about Delta not understanding the local Seattle culture. They’re new TV ads and now their exclusive sponsorship of the Pride Parade only proves that they are totally clueless on highlighting what’s important to the local population. Northwest Airlines knew how to relate to, and market to, Seattleites. One would think Delta would learn a thing or two from NWA, but sadly they didn’t.

  44. The article was based on Colin Bishop’s interview, which is a vetted source. No Delta does not understand Seattleites. And I find it entertaining when Mike Madeiros goes on television and tries to hide his Carolina drawl. Seattleites really don’t want to be at the center of it all. There is definitely a “homer” mentality in the Pacific Northwest. “Support local everything!” I invite everyone to Google “Seattle Freeze” and read a few articles by Ron Judd (or others), like this one:
    The Seattle freeze is real. It takes people here a VERY long time to warm up to an “outsider” and a very short time to cool back off. This place is a tough nut to crack. They circle the wagons around local companies and mistrust everyone else, especially people from California and to a lesser extent “the South” and only because they haven’t invaded the city like Californians. Delta is trying but I think focusing on business traffic only for their O&D is flawed especially when AS’s leadership are native to the PNW and “speak the lingo”… to speak. Big exclusivity money goes over poorly here.

  45. Alaska can’t formally organize the group and outfit them for the parade. That doesn’t mean they can’t march/walk, and also doesn’t someone else outside of the company can’t (it would be funny to see Eskimo Tails lining the route about 3 rows back–props to whoever posted that). And I agree with others, Lucky. Your site/newsletter is usually informative, but lately has gotten a little bitchy/whiny, especially where Delta and AA are concerned.

  46. This whole parade is a marketing stunt – none of these companies gives a damn about gay pride. Delta did what any competitive company would do and get rid of the competition advertising

  47. Dear All,

    This is simply capitalism. I am happy that the gay rights movement is such a coveted investment. 30 years ago, this conversation would have been a dream.

    Thanks Lucky for raising it, knowing the backlash and commentary-plus.


  48. This goes to show how people believe the first thing printed about any given topic without doing research first and really shows their individual hate for a particular group or company. Fickle minded people I tell you.

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