June is Pride month, and rainbows are everywhere as brands signal their support of LGBTQ+ customers and the larger community. Launching cause-related merch can be a tricky tightrope to walk, as some consumers will inevitably see it as a cash grab, but brands that do it best are engaging LGBTQ+ designers and makers and backing up their collections with financial support of groups doing work year-round to help the people and communities these items celebrate.

For example, Chipotle gives back with “The Pride Edit,” a three-tee collection in which $10 from each shirt purchased goes to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for young LGBTQ+ people. Designs include “Chipotle” in rainbow letters, a burrito wrapped in rainbow foil and “LOVE” (with a heart as the O) in Pride flag stripes.

The company also launched a new, limited-edition crew uniform option in honor of Pride month featuring the tagline “Love What Makes You Real” to highlight allyship and acceptance in its restaurants.

“As a company that has long embraced diversity and inclusion, we recognize the importance of creating a safe and welcoming workplace where all team members can be their authentic selves,” says Chris Brandt, chief brand officer and executive sponsor of the PRIDE Employee Resource Group.

Also, through June 18, U.S. customers can round up their order total to the next dollar on the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com to support The Trevor Project. These funds will be added to those raised through its T-shirt sales (a minimum donation of $15,000).



The NFL is also getting in the game. Created in partnership with designer Humberto Leon, the NFL’s new Pride capsule collection includes apparel, accessories and stickers with a pastel ombre rainbow motif and the slogans “Football is Love,” “Football for Everyone” and “Property of Pride Dept.” Team-specific apparel, flags and other items are also available in rainbow designs.

Pieces from the new collection will be worn by the NFL’s employee resource group, NFL Pride, in the Pride marches in New Jersey, Los Angeles and New York.

“The NFL aims to create product that celebrates the universal love of football, and with the launch of our first-ever Pride capsule collection, we can champion that football is for everyone,” says Dan Devece, NFL senior director of consumer products planning and strategy and an NFL Pride member.

The NFL also provides financial support to LGBTQ+ organizations, including The Trevor Project, GLAAD and the National Gay Football League.



But Pride merch has stirred controversy this year. The Target Pride collection, in its 11th year, has drawn protests and calls for boycotts from conservatives, as well as threats to store employees. In response, the retailer pulled items from store displays, sparking backlash from LGBTQ+ advocates.

Target has responded to criticism of its Pride merch before. After some TikTok takedowns on the 2021 collection – including accusations of empty “rainbow capitalism” – the company enlisted LGBTQ+ designers, entrepreneurs and Target team members to more authentically celebrate the community.

These collaborations were met with general acclaim, but several of the artists later expressed disappointment that the company was “so quick to fold” to pressure. “I would love for Target to put on their boxing gloves and fight,” Kennedy Davenport, a former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, whose face was featured on T-shirts, told ABC News.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on Target to put all its Pride products back on store shelves and not “into the proverbial closet.”

“Businesses that are silent or are retreating at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ hatred, from statehouses to social media platforms, is at an all-time high are abdicating their responsibility to stand by their values of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Robinson added.

Target released a statement acknowledging the issue and highlighting “threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work” as reasons to adjust and reiterating its “continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

Part of that commitment is a $250,000 donation to GLSEN, an organization founded by a group of teachers in 1990 with a mission of creating affirming and accessible and antiracist spaces for LGBTQ+ students – making Target’s total donation to GLSEN over the past decade more than $2 million.

“It’s hard to see major corporations profiting off of us when we know that money won’t make it back to the communities who need it the most,” wrote Sa’iyda Shabazz on LGBTQ+ site Autostraddle. “But insofar as corporations who put their money where their mouth is, Target ranks pretty high, so I don’t feel as bad about throwing them my extra dollars.” (Note: This comment was written before items were pulled from stores.)

Whatever may or may not be displayed in stores, the full Target Pride merch collection – over 2,000 items – is still available online. With its Take Pride microsite, the company divides the collection into eight categories: adult clothing; kids and baby clothing; matching family outfits; accessories, jewelry and shoes; pets; party supplies; home, outdoors and stationery; books; and music and movies.

“Some of their products are pretty camp,” writes Parade’s Alani Vargas, but “regardless of what your style is, the Target Pride Collection 2023 has got you covered.”

Other retailers are experiencing similar issues with their Pride merch, and it remains to be seen whether online calls for boycotts will actually have a lasting effect on any of their bottom lines. And there are dozens if not hundreds of brands embracing the rainbow hues and inclusive message of Pride this year – including LGBTQ+ organizations themselves. For example, the Human Rights Campaign’s online shop offers a variety of items bearing its equal sign logo, from tees and socks to jewelry to sunglasses and drinkware – even a snow globe.

“Companies know inclusion is good for business,” said HRC’s Robinson in a USA Today column. For promo pros, inclusive recruiting and marketing will only become more important as younger Gen Z workers – who are already customers and end users – increasingly identify as LGBTQ+.