Local firms throw weight, dollars behind Pink Dot

Participants at last year's Pink Dot event at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. Foreign companies - the majority of Pink Dot's sponsors in the past - can no longer fund events at the Speakers' Corner unless they have a permit.
Participants at last year's Pink Dot event at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. Foreign companies - the majority of Pink Dot's sponsors in the past - can no longer fund events at the Speakers' Corner unless they have a permit.ST FILE PHOTO

50 companies pledge to sponsor this year's LGBT rally, filling the vacuum left by MNCs

With four months to go before its annual rally to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Pink Dot has raised 70 per cent of the total sponsorship dollars it got last year.

This is even though foreign companies - the majority of its sponsors in the past - can no longer fund events at the Speakers' Corner unless they have a permit.

To the organisers' surprise, local companies have stepped up to the plate. As of now, 50 Singapore firms have pledged to sponsor this year's edition of Pink Dot.

They come from various industries, from wood floor manufacturer Wood & Wood to hospitality company The Lo & Behold Group.

With shallower pockets, they donate less than the multinational corporations (MNCs) previously. The Singapore companies are giving $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 - the sponsorship tiers offered by Pink Dot now, compared with the $7,000 or $15,000 tiers last year.

But there are now more sponsors. Last year, there were 18, 13 of which were MNCs, including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said the numbers suggest a growing acceptance of the LGBT community in the local corporate world. Businesses are also seeing value in marketing to the gay community, he added.

Mr Brandon Goh, 33, sales director of Wood & Wood, which has been in the timber industry for 25 years, said he was not worried about losing customers who oppose the LGBT cause. "It's a cause that we support," he said.

The amount raised could grow further. The official fund-raising campaign, called Red Dot for Pink Dot, starts only today.

The 50 which have signed up did so by word of mouth, said Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa, 40.

Last October, the Ministry of Home Affairs made clear that only local entities can sponsor, promote or get its employees to participate in events at the Speakers' Corner. To be considered local, companies need to be incorporated or registered here, and be majority-controlled by Singaporeans.

While foreign firms can get involved if they get a permit, they are unlikely to get the green light given how divisive the LGBT issue is in Singapore.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said then: "In general, if it relates to controversial social or political issues, which really are a matter for Singaporeans, then it is unlikely the foreigners will get a permit."

Said Mr Choa: "We were a bit worried whether there would be enough support from local companies to fill the vacuum left by the MNCs."

Pink Dot, now in its ninth year, had intended to run this year's event "bare bones", like its first one in 2009. But along came Mr Darius Cheung, 36, founder of property start-up 99.co, who sent Pink Dot a message saying: "We are a small start-up but we want to help."

Mr Cheung, a Singaporean, then rounded up tech entrepreneurs he knew to reach out to local firms. He also volunteered to front the Red Dot for Pink Dot campaign and build its website through which companies can sponsor.

The campaign hopes to rope in 100 corporate sponsors, and to raise $150,000 in all. It declines to say how much has already been raised.

Associate Professor Tan said: "We might just see the number of corporate sponsors for Pink Dot 2017 being at its highest ironically because of, not in spite of, the restrictions on foreign sponsorship."

Another sponsor is TV production company Hoods Inc. Its co-founder Bratina Tay, 42, said: "We believe in equality and we do not believe in discrimination. We're not imposing our beliefs on other people; it's just what we believe in. If this helps to bring awareness to the public, we are happy to do so."

Digital agency Xpointo Media contributed $5,000. Its managing director, Ms Kathy Teo, 45, said: "Diversity and inclusion are important values to our company. Broadcasting our commitment to these values is good for business."


Correction note: An earlier version of the article misspelt the surname of Mr Darius Cheung. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Local firms throw weight, dollars behind Pink Dot'. Print Edition | Subscribe