What started out as protest against police mistreatment is now big business.

Gay pride parades were conceived in the fall of 1969 in New York City, after the famous Stonewall Inn riots earlier that year. But it was in 1981, mass protests after the infamous Toronto bathhouse raids turned into this city's pride week.

As the parades spread all over the world, and Toronto's grew to be one of the largest organized gay pride festivals in the world, corporate sponsors have taken note.

TD Bank is a platinum sponsor of the event, and invests more than $1-million annually to gay pride events and projects across Canada. Other sponsors are equally invested.

"These are big names: Bud Light, Hilton, Air Canada, Pfizer, Telus, Winner's — these are big names representing a very broad range of industries," says CBC business reporter Nisha Patel.

It's not just sponsorships and signage on parade floats. It's also products, services, communications, social networking, signs in business — all an attempt to get in on the gay pride brand.

The Drake General Store and the Bay this year created themed pop-up shops, selling rainbow clothing and accessories. One Toronto company, Yo Sox, created a line of rainbow-coloured socks for the festival.

"It's more important for big companies like the banks to have sort of a brand of inclusion — not necessarily just targeting the LGBT community," says Patel. "More companies are finding success when they are doing this both internally and externally," she added, pointing out hiring policies.

Listen to the full conversation with CBC's Matt Galloway and Nisha Patel on Metro Morning above.