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Is The NFL’s Pink Another Black Eye?


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the NFL’s participation is hard to miss. On the field players, officials and coaches are sporting pink in their uniforms. Heck, even the field chalk is pink.

The league auctions off autographed pink jerseys, shoes, caps, etc. to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research. Fans who want to support the NFL’s pink initiative have a range of merchandise in the NFL shop.

That’s feel good stuff for certain.

Unfortunately the NFL, fresh off its embarrassing handling of the replacement referee situation, appears to have stepped in it again.

According to Business Insider the NFL donates 5% of retail sales to “support the fight against breast cancer with pink NFL breast cancer awareness gear.” Without getting into the weeds of markup, sales, NFL profits, etc., we have two observations:

First, 5% is a small percentage – but is that relatively small donation per sale off-set by the “awareness power” of the NFL?

Possibly. According to the results of a 2011 Adweek/ Harris Poll almost two-thirds of U.S. adults say they currently watch NFL football (64%), including almost three-quarters of men (73%) and over half of women (55%). So the NFL could make a case for their reach among Americans as being of great value to the cause.

Second, shouldn’t more money be going to research than awareness? For women with breast cancer the disease is with them every day – not just for a month-long event. Between high power marketing from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and even the NFL – awareness is high.

But if a large portion of the donations go to administering awareness marketing – are these organizations in it for researching to the cure or for the marketing of another “event”?

Either way the NFL’s 5% looks paltry when compared to the 90% passed along to research by organizations like



2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/18/2012 8:03 am

    I’ve always felt the NFL’s October pink out benefits the NFL more than cancer research by softening its image and making it more palatable to women. I’m even more convinced now that I know how paltry the actual numbers are.

    • 10/18/2012 9:35 am

      It is appalling that the NFL, with an annual top line revenue somewhere around $9 billion, has managed to capitalize on Breast Cancer Awareness Month while only donating $1 million per year for the last three years.

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