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Marketing the Rainbow
The Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) is a German railway company. Headquartered in Berlin, it is a private joint-stock company, with the Federal Republic of Germany being its single shareholder. DB describes itself as the second-largest transport company in the world, after the German postal and logistics company Deutsche Post / DHL, and is the largest railway operator and infrastructure owner in Europe. Deutsche Bahn was the largest railway company in the world by revenue in 2015. It carries about two billion passengers annually.
DB has repeatedly shown their commitment to Diversity, both in corporate strategy as well as in campaigns around Pride festivals (including the virtual one in 2020).
In June 2016, DB used a gay couple in an ad celebrating 25 years of ICE-service, with the tagline “Connects more than A and B”. And not just gay protagonists: one of them proves to be a football player* - just in time for the Euro 2016 championship. Only subtle hints on the relationship are dropped at first, but as the ad progresses it becomes clear that they are lovers. With this storyline, DB tackled two hot topics in one go: also about gay soccer stars coming out. At a certain point in the commercial, the fan appears to be “rooting for the wrong team”, another subtle joke (which would mean a entirely different thing in Australia...). In the final scene there is a firm hug (no kiss - but LGBT Germany called it "a hug that may just melt your heart"), after which the two walk away hand in hand in the station. German tabloid BILD described the advert as “taboo-breaking”.
DB wrote: "For the ICE’s 25th birthday, we want to show how it connects more than train stations and cities. Those we welcome on board our trains as customers reflect our society. Whether black or white, young or old, scientists, bankers, crane operators, or unemployed, footballers and musician , gay, lesbian or heterosexual.” Reactions were mixed, critics pointing out that DB has not been known for either innovation, nor reliability, but certainly not for "progressive messages". Most reactions called the clip "heartwarming" though.
* Germany was one of the last big countries in Europe where same-sex marriage was not possible - this was realized in 2017 - although it was the first to have a professional footbal player coming out.
In 2018 they showed their support for CSD on social media, linking in to the 40th anniversary of the Berlin Pride Week. "We celebrate tolerance and diversity! For the 40thChristopher Street Day and the Pride Week in Berlin we are too flying the rainbow flag and welcome all guests. We wish you a fantastic parade!
In 2020, the agency fischerAppelt designed the campaign for DB:
Always look on the pride side. "To mark the start of the Christopher Street Day season, DB lit a beacon for diversity and acceptance with its Pride Ride campaign. Just like many events, the CSD parade was unfortunately cancelled due to the corona pandemic. It’s therefore more important than ever that support is voiced for the LGBTIQ* movement through other avenues."
This article was last updated July 12, 2021
Rainbow flags were flown from 63 DN buildings. “DB is committed to a colorful and open society. We live this diversity within Deutsche Bahn and with numerous measures we repeatedly set an example for a tolerant togetherness, ”said DB boss Richard Lutz.
In close cooperation with the corporate divisions the Employee Resource Group Railbow has been advocating diversity in the group since 2011. "Employees should be able to fully contribute their skills and abilities regardless of sexual identity and orientation. In doing so, we actively support the current corporate strategy “Strong Rails”, in which diversity is firmly anchored."
This is only possible with a lot of support and a corresponding recognition from the executives as a network within the company levels. In 2019 the CEO of DB, Richard Lutz, took over the patronage of Railbow.
In the Autumn of 2019, DB organized a Diversity Week, to show its support of and give a platform to the LGBT employees and other minorities.
For the first time, DB participated in CSD parades as a company (instead of Railbow): in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall was one of the reasons to do so.
2021 marked the 10th anniversary of Railbow. Just in time for Munich's Christopher Street Day, Deutsche Bahn sent an ICE-train with a rainbow stripe on it "que(e)r through Germany" - from Berlin to the Bavarian capital (quer in German means 'across').
It is not about symbolism, "but about attitude, social interaction and concrete living conditions," said railway boss Richard Lutz.
In 2015 DB organized a "demonstration party" - and all for a good cause! The “CSD on the Rail” rolled through Berlin, setting an example for diversity. With the Rainbow S-Bahn DB wanted to draw attention to the rights of LGBT people two weeks before the big Pride (or Christopher Street Day, CSD, as it is called in Germany) parade. It therefore drove with noticeable stickers between Ostbahnhof and Charlottenburg across the center of the capital. There was also a celebration on the train with DJs and live music. Entry to the party was free - only a valid ticket was required. This party was repeated in 2016.
DB covered the locomotive of one of its intercity trains in the colors of the rainbow. The locomotive was on the road all over Germany under the motto “Take a Pride Ride on the Railbow”. The “We support you – Pride Ride with Deutsche Bahn” could be found on the landing page and various other locations.
The campaign followed this mysterious tweet that went viral.
Deutsche Bahn has proven to be a consistent and sincere ally over the years. This is supported from the highest levels to the employee platform Railbow. A number of remarkable campaigns have illustrated the company's unwavering commitment to diversity.