With its iconic pink ribbon, breast cancer awareness is a well-known example of cause marketing activities that differentiate and add value to brands by integrating philanthropic values with proﬁts. Pink ribbon campaigns feature women of various ages, races/ethnicities, family role and professional status to reinforce the idea that all women are at risk of breast cancer. Women in pink ribbon campaigns are portrayed as responsible and empowered family members, warriors and survivors. The campaigns demonstrate goodwill towards women at risk of breast cancer; they are associated with hope, faith, optimism and a life-style of ﬁtness and health.
Hundreds of brands promote products with breast cancer awareness ribbons. But pink-washing is the term for all the cases when companies that manufacture and market carcinogenic products engage in “cancer awareness and prevention campaigns”.
Cynically, pink-washed alcohol brands contribute to cancer risk in the name of research, treatment, and/or prevention. Pink washed alcohol products extend the potential to increase sales of a carcinogen by linking an iconic charitable cause and entire populations of women, including young women who may already consume alcohol at higher levels.
Think Before You Pink®, a project of Breast Cancer Action, was launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the number of pink ribbon products on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.
A 2015 study was among the first to critically examine marketing and promotion for alcohol products linking those products with the breast cancer cause and related charities. They concluded that in order to reduce the risk of alcohol-related cancer and promote effective prevention strategies, alcohol producers, distributors and retailers should refrain from marketing products with pink ribbons and afﬁliations with breast cancer charities. For the charities themselves, the noted that the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is one promising example of a cancer charity with a clear policy on funding relationships with alcohol corporations. It has developed a corporate partnership policy indicating that they will not engage in a cause-related or social marketing partnership with an alcohol company, nor engage in a sponsorship partnership with an alcohol company.
In New Zealand – why do we continue to support such pink-washing when the charities themselves which purport to put funds raised into ‘research’ and ‘awareness’ are actually endorsing and promoting the very products which contribute to cancer?
- Moving ‘Beyond the Bikini’: Exposing the Logics of Pinkwashed Healthcare – June 2020
- Red flags on pinkwashed drinks: contradictions and dangers in marketing alcohol to prevent cancer.
Download the Think Before you Pink Toolkit here.