Diversity and inclusion in action: Why Spark gets behind the Pride community

  • Opinion
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sarah Williams
Diversity and inclusion in action: Why Spark gets behind the Pride community

One of Aotearoa's biggest companies, Spark, is a firm supporter of the LGBTQI+ community through its annual Pride advertising campaigns, its partnership with charity OUTline, and its diversity and inclusion values within the company. Head of brand at Spark New Zealand Sarah Williams explains why the company chose to champion this social issue, how these campaigns attract both the loudest praise and the greatest vilification from New Zealanders, and why that it makes it the most important cause the company champions. 

I’m often asked how Spark chooses subjects for its brand campaigns. Our work, which is tied together by the words you’ll see at the end of every Spark campaign, ‘Little can be huge’, features different New Zealanders in everyday situations. From a busy father reconnecting with his daughter through the power of music, to kids seriously disillusioned after using voice-activated technology to uncover their parents’ fibs, to a boy who turns to the internet for ideas on how to celebrate his Mum on Father’s Day. We want to reflect New Zealand in a powerful and honest way.

Alongside our above-the-line campaigns, we have a stream of predominantly social engagement celebrating our diversity and inclusion values. We recently asked Scotty Morrison to share the tales of the stars for Matariki and for last year’s International Women’s Day, we amplified the voices of some of New Zealand’s strongest female icons.

Interestingly, the diversity and inclusion campaigns to attract both the loudest praise and the greatest vilification have been those that celebrate Pride.

While as a nation we have legally enshrined many rights for the LGBTQI+ community, some people still feel confronted when it comes to a ‘corporate’ celebrating sexual and gender diversity. For us at Spark, this is all the more reason to stand up and champion the cause.

This year, our Pride campaign shares the story of a mother, Dee, and her transgender son, Hunter. It is filmed from Dee’s perspective as she bravely shares her the experience of standing beside her son as he transitioned gender. Her story ends with her insight that, “I thought I was losing my daughter; what I didn’t realise was that I was gaining an amazing son.”

It’s rare to see positive transgender representation in corporate advertising – and we think that’s all the more reason to hero this beautiful mother and son relationship.

Over the last year at Spark, many of us have made a personal commitment to championing diversity and inclusion, which we call a Blue Heart pledge. This is about taking the time to consider how we can create a more inclusive business in the way we behave towards each other and our customers.  From a brand perspective, it means we want to be clear that as an organisation, we stand for inclusion.  And you know when you make these decisions that there will always be people who stand with you and people who don’t.

We don’t do this kind of activity alone. We’re conscious of the need to involve a community in telling their story – rather than just tell stories about them. For that reason, we have a close partnership with OUTLine, a charitable organisation that offers a free support line to those within the LGBTQIA+ community and their family and friends. Our Pride campaign for the last 2 years has focused on lifting the profile of OUTLine and the incredible work they do.

It takes a whole range of people, families, communities, corporate organisations and governments working together to overcome social stigmatisation and build acceptance. We couldn’t ever hope to do this alone – but we can play a role and hope that future generations can grow up in a country that is more accepting, loving and respectful.

This year, Spark has set up a text-to-donate option during Pride for OUTLine. Just text OUTLINE from any NZ mobile network to 2256 to donate $3 to the charity (no fees – all the money goes straight to OUTLine).

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