October 25, 2009

Jumping on the Brandwagon

As a Charlotte resident and pseudo Carolina Panther’s fan, it’s basically required by Mecklenburg County law as an excuse to drink to watch their games on Sunday afternoons (well that is if you can’t get into a good marathon of America’s Next Top Model). Recently though, I’ve noticed that many players’ wardrobes have added a certain splash of color to their usual blue and black palette: pink. These “Pink Panthers”, as they have been trademarked, have been sporting everything from pink wrist bands to pink towels to even pink gloves. What makes the average 250 lb beefy staple of an athlete accessorize with the world’s most feminine color? They, like many other athletes across the U.S., have been showing their support for Breast Cancer Awareness.

This got me thinking. October has been the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month since its inception in 1985, but lately it has become its own personal franchise. What started as a weeklong event to fill an information void has since transformed into a month of overwhelming merchandise. Everything from detergent to frozen dinners to your Twitter background has been painted pink and laced with a ribbon. With every commercial genre dipping their toes into breast cancer support waters, how much actual equity can come from this? And furthermore, how much real “support” are these companies giving besides dressing their packaging with a pink ribbon? So what began as personal research on tangible Breast Cancer Awareness support, quickly distorted into Breast Cancer Awareness, uh, awareness.

As a matter of fact, so many companies, franchises and merchandisers have jumped on this “brandwagon” that it has since spawned another movement. For example, Breast Cancer Action, a national education and activist organization, launched a campaign in 2002 entitled “Think Before You Pink”, due to the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions currently on the market. The campaign’s website helps endorse awareness and answer questions about where your money actually goes. For instance, in 2008, Lean Cuisine, a popular assortment of frozen dinners, had a strategically placed pink ribbon on their boxes, though no money in purchasing one actually went to a breast cancer organization. Instead, you had to visit their website and purchase their pink lunch tote. Only then would $5 of that purchase be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure.

Think Before You Pink also calls out companies defined as “pinkwashers”: a company that purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribboned product, but manufactures products that are linked to the disease. For instance, in 2006, BMW donated $1 per mile to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation every time someone test drove a car. However, car exhaust has been linked to breast cancer. Though maybe a little bit of a stretch, you might inadvertently be donating to the disease as opposed to the cure.

So basically it is just that – think before you pink. As a woman, I believe supporting causes and organizations like breast cancer is vital, but it’s also smart to be aware of how you are actually supporting them. A good general rule of thumb is, do your research and if you aren’t sure how these commercial products are really giving back to a breast cancer foundation, donate directly to the organization itself. Visit websites like National Breast Cancer Foundation or Susan G. Komen for the Cure and make a direct contribution.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month started out as a way to educate and promote research for a cure for a terrible and devastating disease, but instead has slowly been turning into a profitable enterprise … that may start to forget about the people it affects altogether.

By: Keri Lynch

One Comment

  1. Kendall   October 26, 2009 12:43 pm / Reply

    very nice…i never even though about this

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