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Think pink

Is the NFL’s month of pink what it’s made up to be?

So much pink. My poor eyes./Keri Marcouillier
So much pink. My poor eyes./Keri Marcouillier

Tuning into an NFL game in October means things look a little different. October is the NFL month of pink, and laces, logos and lids all share the same shade to support breast cancer. For five years, the NFL has donned pink for the “Crucial Catch” campaign and has generated millions from the sales of pink paraphernalia. Unfortunately, it’s mostly bullshit.

Partnered with the American Cancer Society (ACS), the NFL created the “Crucial Catch” campaign to raise funds for the Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program. Essentially, the money from the NFL is distributed to American clinics to help educate women and subsidize the cost of screenings.

Here’s how it works. For every pink item sold, the NFL receives a royalty from the licensees that sell their product. In turn, the NFL donates the royalties from the product to ACS. So, for each hat, jersey and glove sold, a small percentage will be donated. It all sounds pretty good, right? Those royalty payments must really add up and provide education and screening to millions, right? Wrong.

The NFL breast cancer month generates unimpressive results. The NFL made roughly 10 billion in revenue last year and is one of the largest sports associations on the planet. Every week – for one game – viewership is over 20 million people, sometimes even over 30 million. It would make sense then, that the NFL should be able to generate massive sums of money for their month long cause. This is not the case, however.

On average, over the last three years, the funding has educated 25,000 women and subsidized 3,300 screenings per year. Additionally, the league has on average generated 1.4 million per year. To put that in perspective, the number of subsidized screening is equivalent to 25% of U of R students and the number educated is equivalent to 10% of the Regina population. If that’s not enough, the NFL raised only four times more than the Regina Breast Cancer Run for the Cure.

It’s called “pinkwashing” and means that a company is using breast cancer-related charities to promote itself. It’s fair to say that the NFL, like many businesses, is attempting to boost their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and it’s also fair to say that the NFL is marketing. Undoubtedly, they are attempting to attract a very big, very important market of females (good luck with that this season!). The result is that NFL licensees increase their sales and make a whack of money and the NFL generates free PR.

The point is simple. Giving to charity is important and admirable, but choosing “sexy” charities that allow you to attract new audiences, make cute toques and promote an organization, is not. The NFL has a massive platform and the ability to make a real impact, but somehow individual players have foundations that are more successful.

So, let’s be smart about where we donate and be critical of pinkwashing. Wearing a cute pink toque means you support the cause, but unfortunately does not always mean that cause is being supported.

About Suzanne Barber