In 1994, Cadbury Schweppes withdrew its sponsorship of the high rating ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ show due to the promotion of live crosses to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

Channel 9 tried to maintain sponsorship by deleting the word ‘lesbian’ and then ‘gay’ from its promo, the censored version referring only to ‘Sydney’s Mardi Gras’. This proved ineffective and Cadbury-Schweppes’ one-night-only withdrawal sparked outrage.

In a letter to the Mardi Gras Board, Kevin Hayes, Cadbury Schweppes chairperson, denied that the company’s actions constituted discrimination and argued that advertising was targeted to particular audiences.

About 100 protesters targeted Cadbury Schweppes House in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, carrying placards such as: ‘Mardi Gras Cherry Raped by Cadbury Bigots’. ALP State Member for Altona, Carole Marple, addressed the rally organised by Frits Maaten.

The Mardi Gras Board and Midsumma Festival threatened to organise a national boycott if an explanation and apology were not forthcoming.

Brenton Geyer, then President of Midsumma, met with Hayes and was told that an open letter of support for the gay community was to be released. Sydney Star Observer reported that a letter of apology would be published by Cadbury-Schweppes in gay, lesbian and mainstream presses. No apology was made, no boycott was organised.

Later, the Northcote based New Australia Movement claimed that the ‘Homosexual Mafia’ demanded the company sponsor a float in the following year’s Mardi Gras and that $400,000 be distributed to homosexual groups. It invited people to send letters of support to Cadbury-Schweppes.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.