If You Put a Pink Ribbon on a Pig, It’s Still a Pig
Every October (and much of the rest of the year now), consumers are bombarded by pink ribbons in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness. Women march for days to honor each other and eagerly put their dollars to use. Husbands and sons proudly wear pink. I even read the sweetest story about a little boy that asked for a pink cast when he broke his arm because he wanted to support breast cancer. You’d be hard-pressed to find a man, woman, or child in this country that is not aware of breast cancer.
We’ve painted the town pink, but what have we accomplished in the last twenty years? Less than you’d think. How much of the$6 BILLION or so dollars spent last year in the name of breast cancer is actually helping us find a cure? The numbers are shockingly low. How to women who have suffered through breast cancer feel about this? Angry. I watched the documentary Pink Ribbon, Inc. recently. It was a bleak reminder that breast cancer is not pretty in pink. I found it to also be a tragic and embarrassing commentary on the state of our society’s ignorance about what it takes to actually make good things happen rather than making ourselves feel good.
How Close Are We to a Cure?
What Do the Sufferers Think?
Where Does All the Money Go?
Breast cancer is big business for both nonprofits organizations and for profit corporations. Want to know where $6 BILLION consumers dollars is going annually? There’s not enough space on the internet to tell you everything you don’t want to hear, but let’s start with two you are probably familiar with.
Susan G. Koman for the Cure, is the largest of 1,400 IRS recognized tax-exempt charities devoted to breast cancer. In the last five years, they have grossed over $1 BILLION. Yet they have a paltry 2-Star rating by Charity Navigator. Why? There is a long list, but let’s start with this: Only 20% of their fundraising goes to research for the cure. Only 10% goes to fund treatments for the cure. Their Founder (not the CEO) makes over half a million dollars a year. The saddest part, is that they aren’t the worst offender. While there are many legit breast cancer charities with 4-star ratings, there are dozens that are total scams. Read about this scam where consumers were bilked of $187M over a period of over 20 years.
While SGK at least started out of a genuine desire to support the disease that killed the founder’s sister, the NFL’s decision to support breast cancer is purely a marketing gimmick. They were surprised to find they have a larger female audience than they thought and needed to earn brownie points to counter all the bad publicity their players generate, often related to violence against women. So lets look at the numbers: pink-washed NFL products are sold at 100% markup. 25% goes to NFL royalties and 90% of that royalty goes to the American Cancer Society. The other 10% goes to pay for the awareness campaign. So if you bought $100 worth of merchandise, $11.25 made it to the ACS. The remainder goes to the manufacturer (37.5%) and the rest goes to the NFL (50%). So lets take that one step further: 70% of the ACS’ income goes to ALL cancer research and cancer programs, not just breast cancer. Read more at Business Insider. The NFL is taking advantage of consumers’ good hearts. Before you argue the benefit of their awareness campaign with me, find one person who has never heard of breast cancer. The NFL’s awareness campaign is cause marketing garbage. It discredits genuine cause marketing that has real impact and – worse – it literally takes money away from research to find a cure and assistance to those suffering. It’s worse than stealing candy from babies. Not cool, NFL. Not cool.
I wish I could say they are the only ones but with everything from drill bits to baby diapers being painted pink, the list is long. The organization Think Before You Pink combats “pink-washing” – this is brands that create a false sense of goodwill among consumers while doing more to increase profits than to promote a cure and brands that promote the cause while selling products with known carcinogens. Some of the names you’ll see? Avon, Yoplait, and KFC. Surprised? Me, too.
How You Can Help the Cause.
Great Reads & Resources
The Business of Breast Cancer – great article from Marie Claire Magazine
CharityNavigator.com – get the real numbers behind the charities you want to support. Know your money is getting to the people you want to help!
GuideStar.org – another great resource for researching charities of all sizes. Don’t get scammed!