Awareness vs. Fundraising: NFL's Crucial Catch Campaign

Photo by Ed Yourdon
10.18.2012By

Photo by Ed Yourdon

When you think of the fight against breast cancer, probably one of the first things you think about is the color pink. Especially in October, which is breast cancer awareness month, the color pink shows up everywhere to remind people that we need to find a cure for this troubling disease.

Among the places that pink has made an appearance is every NFL game this month. While the shock of seeing big burly men wearing hot pink shoes could potentially be a story unto itself, the fact is that serious questions have arisen in regards to the National Football League’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign.

An October 10th article in Business Insider exemplifies these concerns with the headline, “Why is the NFL Profiting Off of Breast Cancer?” The article notes:

When we contacted the NFL’s online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.

The article also raises another extremely important point:

Of course, awareness is a very important factor in the fight against breast cancer. But I am sure if you asked most people with cancer or those that have lost loved ones to the dreaded disease, they’d prefer a cure over more awareness.

When it comes to fundraising, the importance of this statement is hard to understate. Online, it is possible to raise awareness for causes, but sometimes there is not even a call-to-action to raise funds for that organization.

It’s hard to argue that awareness on its own doesn’t do any good. In fact, the Baltimore Ravens’ website recently interviewed players regarding how they felt about wearing pink, and many of the players said they were happy to help the cause. Who wants to downplay that sense of social good?

In the case of the NFL, one could also argue that the October campaign, which is marking its third year of existence, raises awareness and money. If a donation of 5% of the total profits is made, that is still a sizable contribution. In fact, that same Business Insider article notes that the NFL has donated $3 million (averaging $1 million/year) for cancer research. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially at a time when donating $10 can make a difference. While people might resent that the owners are making money off the “think pink” concept, the optimists might say the owners are also doing more than most people, who donate nothing at all.

There are, of course, other ways to approach the fundraising conundrum of increasing awareness versus increasing contributions. The single best answer is to follow the NFL’s lead and avoid the “either/or” conversation. For an example that may be a little closer to home, consider how Razoo is approaching Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To raise awareness not only of the fight against cancer but also of several other issues, Razoo is pushing to get 50,000 likes by the end of the month (you can like them right here, by the way). If Razoo reaches that goal, they will donate $10,000 to 4 organizations in the fight against breast cancer. The clever aspect of this kind of approach is that people can feel like they themselves are contributing to cancer research when all they actually need to do is click a single button and encourage others to do the same. Making fundraising easy and tying those fundraising efforts to more easy-to-share awareness campaigns is a win-win for everyone.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the vitriol aimed at the NFL is that being transparent is of the utmost importance. Perhaps if the NFL had been more open about the fact that it was not donating 100% of proceeds to cancer research, there wouldn’t be as much blowback on the “discovery” that that was not the case. If you are organizing a fundraising or an awareness campaign, be 100% transparent about everything you are doing. This includes being transparent about how you will use the funds if you are raising money for your organization.

What do you think? Is the rage against the NFL justified? I’d love to hear your thoughts.