The marketing team behind the 2023 Gay Games shares what’s in store

As part of The Drum’s Marketing and the Marginalized Deep Dive, we catch up with Rob Cheng and Andreas Krasser, who are putting together the marketing playbook for the 2023 Gay Games in Hong Kong – its first time in Asia.

As physical events make a gradual comeback in the post-pandemic world, Asia is getting ready to host an unusual one – its first-ever Gay Games. Hong Kong is the host country for the 11th edition, which is to be held in 2023 – the previous edition had taken place in 2018 in Paris. The Games are planned as a celebration for thousands of people from a variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions, gender identities, ages, abilities and backgrounds from across the globe.

The mega-event, themed around ‘Unity in Diversity,’ has 36 sporting events planned including dragon boat racing, dodgeball, esports and trail running, as well as arts and culture events, LGBT+ art exhibitions and memorial events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games. The Drum looks at what makes the event important and relevant.

The genesis of the Gay Games and its evolution

The Gay Games was created by Dr Tom Waddell, a former Olympian, in 1982 to provide the LGBT+ community with an inclusive and safe platform to experience the empowerment and joy of competing in an Olympic Games.

The idea behind Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) was first conceived seven years ago when Dennis Philipse, the founder and co-chair, and a dedicated team put together a comprehensive bid to host the Gay Games, shares Rob Cheng, strategic marketing director, GGHK. In 2017, the Federation of Gay Games chose Hong Kong over 17 other cities to host the 11th Gay Games in 2022 (now rescheduled to 2023), he adds.

Why the Gay Games is important and relevant

Events such as the Gay Games do have an important role to play in promoting the cause of inclusion and diversity around the world, as well as in actively engaging with the communities – both of which are critical to the modern-day world.

Cheng points out: “The Gay Games and GGHK are explicitly apolitical events, and we look to the unifying power of sport and arts and culture to bring a diverse community together.” The hope from the event is to spread its impact to elsewhere in the region where there is an ongoing struggle to overcome homophobia and discrimination, he adds.

Spreading the word of the Games

The team behind the event is putting a comprehensive plan in place to raise awareness and also deepen understanding of what the Gay Games actually are. Cheng says: “The fact that – despite its name – the Games are open to everyone is a key message that we need to communicate. We also need to find ways to promote participation across the activities by letting people know that people of all experiences, levels and abilities are welcome.”

In addition to a much larger representation of Asia, the event hopes to attract a record number of women, people from the trans community and younger participants (aged 18-25) to GGHK, making it a truly inclusive and diverse Games.

Building the gaming line-up with the host country at heart

To introduce and reflect the unique character of Hong Kong, many new sporting events are being introduced. Cheng says: “For the first time, GGHK will feature the sports of dragon boating and trail running, two iconic and quintessentially Hong Kong activities; also we are excited to introduce dodgeball, cheerleading and esports as new events to the Games.”

Interestingly in North America and Europe, where people may be more familiar with the Gay Games, the organizers want to showcase the vibrant culture of Hong Kong and its beautiful and diverse landscapes – especially after the difficulties of the past few years. “We want to reconnect with the rest of the world and be able to share an apolitical and authentic image of the city and its dynamic residents,” says Cheng.

The creative brief for the campaign

To communicate the inclusive nature of the Games and that they are for everyone, a teaser campaign has been launched as part of a larger campaign, which has been conceptualized by DDB Hong Kong, the partner agency for the Games.

Andreas Krasser, chief executive officer of DDB Group Hong Kong, says: “The creative brief was fairly simple and straightforward: given the inclusive nature of the Gay Games, we aimed at inviting everyone to come out for the Games (pun intended).”

The core challenge for the creative team was an interesting one. While many people had heard about the Gay Games, a lot of them weren’t sure who this event was for, says Krasser. Was it for professional athletes, or people of a certain sexual orientation only? The campaign is trying to address and solve this problem, he adds.