Pink Dot draws 120 local sponsors

Total sum raised for LGBT rally estimated to cross $240k, far exceeding organisers' target

Participants hold up placards at the eighth edition of Pink Dot on June 4, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

When the authorities made clear that foreign companies should not sponsor events at the Speakers' Corner, Pink Dot organisers fretted as they were not sure if local companies would stand behind them.

But in just six weeks, 103 had pledged money to the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rally. By the time the fund-raising campaign closed last Sunday, Pink Dot had 120 sponsors.

According to The Sunday Times' calculations, this brings the total sum raised to more than $240,000 - far exceeding the target of $150,000 from 100 companies.

Previous editions of Pink Dot relied on foreign sponsorship from companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Barclays and Goldman Sachs. Last year, only five of 18 sponsors were local.

On the local sponsorship this year, Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said it was not surprising.

"With the big boys prohibited from sponsoring, the upward trend of local sponsorship was bound to happen," he said.

Six sponsors The Sunday Times spoke to said it was a matter of personal beliefs and of standing up to be counted, now that foreign firms cannot do so.

Last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that Speakers' Corner events at Hong Lim Park cannot have foreign sponsorship.

RJ Paper, a family-run business that has been around since 1987, put up $10,000 - one of the seven to do so. Its director Jane Goh said: "We believe a society will thrive with tolerance and diversity. Everyone is different and should not be discriminated."

Pink Dot needed the support, said Ms Karen Khoo-Toohey from Chuan Pictures, which also sponsored $10,000.

There have been some negative reactions online.

In a post last month that has since been taken down, a pro-family Facebook group uploaded a compilation of Pink Dot sponsors, asking members to boycott those companies.

Local companies, however, said they were not afraid of a backlash.

Ms Calsia Lee, managing director of kitchen and wardrobe design firm Mudian, said: "We were not worried.

"We have been in business for 20 years, with diverse, all-inclusive, people-centric company values. We think that will carry us through for a long time more."

Of the six sponsors, one received negative feedback directly.

Local chocolatier Demochoco owner Lim Jialiang received an e-mail asking him to reconsider his support of the event because Pink Dot "undermines the traditional family unit". He said it was one piece of hate mail compared with about 20 encouraging messages.

Mr Lim, who sold chocolates to raise $5,000 for Pink Dot, said: "Some asked if I will do another round of crowdfunding, others said they bought my chocolates as a way of thanks for the sponsorship."

Prof Tan said that if Pink Dot manages its brand well - "how it nurtures values like non-discrimination that transcends the LGBT community, and how it underscores that the event is celebratory rather than a protest" - companies will continue showing solidarity with it.

"Companies are increasingly prepared to make a stand on key issues of the day. So are individuals... Civil discourse is healthy so long as it is done with respect," he said.

Now in its ninth year, Pink Dot will take place on July 1. Its ambassadors this year are singer Nathan Hartono, para-swimmer Theresa Goh and actor Ebi Shankara.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline Pink Dot draws 120 local sponsors. Subscribe