A smack down recently took place in Seattle between Alaska Airlines and Delta—but it wasn’t over competitive summer airfares or access to lucrative travel routes.
No, it was over which company’s employees had the right to march in Seattle’s upcoming gay pride parade.
Dubbed the “Great Airline Gay Sponsorship Skirmish of 2016,” Seattle-based Alaska Airlines found itself sore and bruised after being out-muscled by Delta as a top sponsor of the city’s annual “pride” event—leading even some in the gay community to question the commercialization of events that historically had more of a countercultural feel for a once-marginalized community.
As summed up by local columnist Danny Westneat, “In America, you know you’ve finally achieved a measure of full equality when your countercultural events are just as sold out to the highest corporate bidder as everybody else’s.”
Well, everybody else—it would seem—except Christians. As major brands do battle for competitive advantage before the economically, politically and culturally powerful LGBT market, Americans who self-identify as Faith Driven Consumers are asking, “What about us?”
Here, a comparison between market segments is helpful. While most estimates say that 5% of Americans self-identify as LGBT, the Faith Driven Consumer segment makes up 17% of the U.S. adult population—41 million strong. And while research indicates that the LGBT community spends $884 million annually, Faith Driven Consumers spend $2 trillion each year.
Given that the Faith Driven Consumer segment is more than three times as large as the LGBT market—and spends more than twice as much annually—why isn’t Corporate America tripping over itself to reach Christians like it jockeys for position with the LGBT community? Could it be that brands take Christians for granted because they remain a majority—albeit shrinking—in the U.S. population? Or is it due to overt anti-Christian discrimination, as some have recently suggested?
While the answer remains to be seen, one thing is clear: Most Fortune 500 brands include “religion” as an enumerated category in their commitment to “diversity and inclusion”—alongside sexual orientation and gender identity. However, walking the talk when it comes to welcoming and celebrating Christians—on equal footing with the LGBT community—is rare.
The time is ripe for major players like Alaska Airlines and Delta to go mano a mano and get in front of the economically powerful Faith Driven Consumer community. It won’t hurt—and it’ll even help their bottom lines.