Originally published on October 20, 2011 and republished here in honor of breast cancer awareness month and in memory of Barbara Ehrenreich, who died on September 1, 2022. I’ve removed some defunct links and updated others. Update: the NFL ended its pink-themed breast-cancer campaign in 2018.
“Pink” isn’t just a color, reports Natasha Singer in the New York Times; it’s a marketing strategy to raise money for breast-cancer prevention and research. And it’s a verb:
In marketing circles, “to pink” means to link a brand or a product or even the entire National Football League to one of the most successful charity campaigns of all time. Like it or not — and some people don’t like it at all — the pinking of America has become a multibillion-dollar business, a marketing, merchandising and fund-raising opportunity that is almost unrivaled in scope. There are pink-ribbon car tires, pink-ribbon clogs, pink eyelash curlers — the list goes on.
Call it Big Pink:
Like Big Oil, Big Food and Big Pharma, Big Pink has its share of critics. Some patient advocates complain that Komen and other pink-ribbon charities sugarcoat breast cancer, which kills about 40,000 American women and 450 men annually. Others complain that pink marketing, despite the many millions it raises for charities, is just another way to move merchandise and that it exploits cancer by turning it into an excuse to go shopping. And some pink-theme products have no relationship with any charities at all. (Consumers should check before buying.)
For a decidedly jaundiced take on pink-ribbon marketing, read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 essay, “Welcome to Cancerland.” You can download a PDF here.