The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Who’s Capitalizing on Pink Products

3 min read

The pumpkins and costumes are put away, the fallen leaves are blown into piles off Campus Walk, and the pink ribbons promoting breast cancer awareness are going into migration for the winter. October, or “pinktober,” is over.

Everyone has seen the pink ribbon campaign in action. This iconic symbol can be seen on everything from bumper stickers to high heels. Most people believe that proceeds from the sale of these products will go toward finding a cure for breast cancer.

However, you might want to pause and think about where your money is really going before you spend $80 on five-inch, sparkly pink “Fergie Awareness Pumps.”

According to Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, many companies capitalize on the pink ribbon campaign. Supporting the search for a cure for breast cancer is really good for a company’s public image, and many shoppers are more likely to spend money on something that they think will donate to a good cause. However, it may be an extremely small amount that actually goes to charity.

According to an article in the San Francisco Business Times titled “Breast cancer group questions value of pink ribbon campaigns,” Yoplait’s “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign promised to donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for every pink lid sent in.
Sounds good, except that it costs 37 cents just to mail them. Also, Post-It had a pink ribbon campaign that resulted in $300,000 raised for City of Hope, but they spent $500,000 on the campaign, according to PR Week.

Think Before You Pink also encourages people to check out the products themselves. Many of the companies that support “pink” are known to make products that contain chemicals that can be harmful to a person’s health.

The car companies Ford, Mercedes and BMW all used “pink” to promote car sales, while the exhaust from their cars releases toxic chemicals into the environment that are linked to cancer. Even Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s perfume, Promise Me, contains Galaxolide and Toluene, chemicals that have been found to be toxic and have negative health effects.

Furthermore, Komen, which is the biggest name in the fight against breast cancer, and has spent millions of dollars legally defending their sole right to the use of the phrase “for the Cure” in their organization name, reportedly only spent 20.9 percent of their revenue in funding research, according to the organization’s consolidated financial statements.

Administrative costs make up about 11 percent of expenses, which might not seem like a lot, but when we’re talking about a multi-million dollar, non-profit organization where the CEO’s salary is over $500,000, according to the organization’s 2008 Form 990, it might be a bit excessive.

Almost 40 percent went to “Public Health Education,” which includes providing material with information on breast cancer as well as all the “pink” awareness activities: races, walks, benefits, bowling tournaments, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty aware of breast cancer. My grandmother died of it. I think most people are aware that breast cancer exists. I’m not saying people do not need to be educated on prevention and getting tested, but I don’t know if all the “pink” hype and such a great percentage of donations going to education is the best way to do this. Perhaps they should think about changing their name from “for the Cure” to “for Awareness.”

Breast cancer is a horrible thing. I am wholeheartedly in support of ending it, getting involved and donating to the cause. I’m just afraid that certain companies are seeking to capitalize on charity. So next time, before you jump on the “pink” bandwagon, make sure you find out exactly where your money is going.