The Marketing Truth Behind The Pink: October in the NFL

The month of October. When leaves are falling, pumpkin lattes are consumed, UGG Boots make their way out of the closet, cold air is crisp, and the NFL turns pink. Most Americans watching football know it’s the standard that NFL players, coaches, and officials don those pink accessories, hats, and more during October. What most Americans don’t know is the truth behind the pink month in the NFL.

Know The Truth of Pink October in the NFL

Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m not one to ever bash or degrade good-willed movements and campaigns. In fact, I will be your biggest cheerleader. But I think the truth behind the pink should be made aware to more people who think that the NFL is leading a good cause to fight breast cancer but in reality is just putting on a good campaign for more profits from more exposure in the long run.

the truth behind pin in the NFLDuring the month of October when the NFL is going pink many people immediately tie it to Breast Cancer month. It’s become a standard that when we see the pink on Football Sundays we know “Oh, yeah it’s October now.” But there are some things that the NFL does a conveniently good job of keeping “hush-hush” during this time.

Where Is The Money Really Going?

I would think that when most people see the pink they think proceeds are going towards cancer research and finding ways to beat it. That seems to be realistic, right?

Along with that I think most people would think it is going towards a particular breast cancer research organization. Right?


The NFL Campaign “A Crucial Catch”, in fact is benefiting the raising awareness of breast cancer and the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. Yes I think that is a great organization (one I’ve donated to), but there are some problems and issues I have with this “do good, feel good” campaign.

“This program promotes health equity and addresses cancer screening disparities through community based cancer prevention and early detection programs that increase access to breast cancer screenings.” – NFL Pink Website

Raising Awareness…

Really? Does the NFL really think that people aren’t aware of breast cancer? I think that every one is touched by this killer disease in one way or another in their lifetime, whether it’s a mother, sister, friend, or even a man in one’s life. So raising more awareness shouldn’t be their priority.

American Cancer Society

So this organization doesn’t solely focus on breast cancer. Ok, I can get over that. So it says that 100% of the profits from pink merchandise is being donated to the American Cancer Society. But, that has some fine print.

“All NFL Pink product is produced by official NFL licensees. As NFL licensees, such companies pay a royalty (% of wholesale sales) to the NFL when selling officially licensed products to retailers worldwide. The NFL receives payment of that wholesale royalty once licensees sell their respective NFL licensed products to distributors and retailers (i.e., the royalty is not based on retailers’ consumer-facing prices in-store or online).” – NFL Pink Website

Huh? What does that mean? So in more realist terms this is what is really going on with the profits of the pink merchandise according to a 2013 report from Business Insider. So sorry to say from the $100 you spent on pink gear, only $8.01 went to breast cancer research.

Sorry to say from the $100 you spent on pink gear, only $8.01 went to breast cancer research.

report in 2013

A Marketing Gold Mine

NFL womenAs a digital marketer, I can see there is a bigger picture that benefits the NFL profits in the long run. So think of this. The NFL’s fanbase is predominantly men right? Think again, in reality about 45% of the fanbase is made up of women. That’s much more than I had assumed.

So it would be a good conclusion think that most of the pink gear is being sold to women right? So let’s think of this in terms of targeting a market audience.

  • The NFL is made up of 45% women fanbase.
  • They are producing pink gear that will be desired by the majority of that women fanbase.
  • They are giving women who tend to be more emotionally attached to breast cancer organizations a reason to buy this “limited time only” pink merchandise.

For a marketer this is a gold mine situation for hooking and reeling in a new customer. When customers are purchasing your products online you are gathering information about them like where they live, their favorite NFL team, and their email address.

Those pieces of information may not seem like a big deal but to a marketer its drool-worthy information. You can now target your newly acquired audience with mailings, TV commercials, attractions to their favorite team’s gear, and most importantly you now have access to their email inbox.

Where’s The Human-Element To The Pink?

All these newly acquired customers can now be turned into regular customers to continue to feed profits during the season and more to come. Now as a marketer this is great. Seeing more profits come through the door means, you did a good job.

But like anything else I think one has to step back and see the mask that the NFL is putting on with this Pink Campaign. I think most people can agree, it’s a bit deceiving the way the whole campaign is geared towards.

And don’t even talk about the irony in allowing players to wear pink all-season long in honor their loved ones’ memory.With the not-so-good track record the NFL has with women’s rights and equality, this just makes things a bit more uneasy for me. But I think that the public has a right to know what the truth behind the pink is in the NFL.

What Now?

So I’m not going to sit here and say DON’T buy from the NFL, because that would be hypercritical, as I have bought NFL merchandise before (Go Seahawks!). But I think it is important to make people aware of what is really happening behind the Pink Campaign in the NFL and how the money is collected and distributed.

After all, this is about money right? Or is it about curing cancer, I haven’t really decided.

Either way I hope that the NFL can find more realistic (and straightforward) ways of helping the community and overall public besides providing an avenue for Fantasy Football. Because in the end we are all just humans and it’s in our nature to have a heart-warming need to help others.

How You Can Help More Efficiently

Instead of donating small portions of your money from NFL merchandise to raising awareness there are ways you can help find a cure for cancer. Below I list some other organizations that help. I don’t have a preference in terms of who is better or does a better job, but simply can give you some help finding some avenues to make a difference.

  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation – The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to achieving prevention and a cure for breast cancer. We provide critical funding for cancer research worldwide to fuel advances in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, metastasis and survivorship.
  • Susan G. Komen – Susan G. Komen is the ONLY organization that addresses breast cancer on multiple fronts such as research, community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives in order to make the biggest impact against this disease.
  • Start Your Own Movement – Collect from friends and family and donate to a cause. Go to the doctors appointment with your mom to get a mammogram. Learn to check yourself for warning signs. Educate yourself.

Virginia Buechel My Worst AdviceVirginia Buechel – @BueWho

Raised and still living in New Jersey, Virginia has a knack for trying new projects and adventures. Whether it’s exploring the outdoors behind a camera or creating new social media projects, she keeps herself busy.

Follow Virginia on: My Worst AdviceWebsiteInstagram | Twitter |Tumblr


One comment

  1. Canuck Carl · February 12, 2017

    Thank you for sharing the reality through this awareness. Sadly in so many cases there is a “hidden agenda” by the marketers that the general population might not be aware of.


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