Pink sees red as Mr Gay Hong Kong pageant turns ugly in sponsorship row

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 August, 2014, 6:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 5:18pm

An ugly war of words has erupted over Mr Gay Hong Kong with a major sponsor announcing it is withdrawing funding in a dispute over naming rights just weeks before the annual pageant.

Gay-friendly business network Pink Dollar, a long-time supporter of the six-year-old contest, has pulled out of a planned HK$40,000 sponsorship arrangement.

Founder Paul Ramscar says he took the decision after discovering he had been misled by organisers over whether or not Mr Gay Hong Kong had been registered as a trademark.

Contest co-founder James Gannaban responded by accusing Ramscar of failing to honour a previous sponsorship deal and insisted the this year's contest would go ahead in October with new sponsors, although no venue had yet been decided.

Ramscar said he took the decision to withdraw after being repeatedly assured the name Mr Gay Hong Kong was being registered as a trademark when, he says, it was not.

"I just felt we'd been duped. I felt we'd been led astray," he said. "It's a little bit upsetting because we have put quite a bit of money into it over the past two years."

Ramscar, whose company launched an app to promote gay-friendly businesses, said that as part of the sponsorship, Pink Dollar had been promised the rights to use the contest's name in promotional material.

"If I was to use it and put it on our materials or branding and it's not actually registered at all … it puts us in a bit of a position," he said. "As a business we only want to deal with named brands and legitimate concerns.

"I was told on numerous occasions it was registered or [they] were going through the process, and clearly they were not because I got my lawyer to do a trademark search in Hong Kong and internationally and there was nothing," Ramscar said..

"We won't get involved with this ever again which is a shame because it does provide some benefit to the community ... I am deeply disappointed with it."

Gannaban declined to say whether the contest name had been trademarked.

Gannaban said: "Mr Ramscar left for the UK just after we had launched Mr Gay Hong Kong 2013. The sponsorship hasn't materialised since then and, we have been informed by Mr Ramscar, never will.

"We could have chosen to pursue Pink Dollar's pledged sponsorship through our dependable legal channels. But in our sixth year, we have grown highly appreciative of the deeply nuanced network of relationships that greases the gears of Hong Kong's businesses."

He said the 2014 contest would be partially sponsored by a London-based financial services company called Discretion.

Gannaban described Mr Gay Hong Kong as a "community title". "At a time when pageants everywhere are in decline, we are putting solid effort behind finding the most inspiring gay man in Hong Kong, and naming him an ambassador of Hong Kong's vibrant [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community."

More than 400 guests saw expat teacher Michael Morrill win Mr Gay Hong Kong 2013 last October. This week he will compete in Mr Gay World in Rome.