Keeping our eyes and ears open…..

Marketing Breast Cancer in America: What Role Should Corporate Sponsorship Play in Health Activism?

Title: Marketing Breast Cancer in America: What Role Should Corporate Sponsorship Play in Health Activism?

Author: Lisa B.

Publication: Serendip

Publication Date: December 21, 2009

What would happen if corporate America no longer invested in breast cancer? The role of corporate marketing support for breast cancer activism has been criticized ever since corporate sponsorship began to visibly increase in the 1980s. Corporations that support breast cancer interest groups believe that the purpose of a cause-related marketing relationship is to associate their brand with funding for breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment. But who determines whether a corporation involved in such an enterprise is beneficent, corrupt, or simply medically ineffective, intertwining useless marketing gimmicks with effective information about breast cancer treatment? Governmental oversight must play an important role as a guardian of public safety by evaluating the information underwritten by corporate sponsors for false claims. Failing stricter governmental regulation, the cause-related marketing relationships that developed in the breast cancer movement may begin to mirror the free-for-all market in other sectors of the medical economy, such as erectile dysfunction drugs, where the pharmaceutical companies provide most of the treatment information to the public.

The emotional significance of breast cancer as a women’s health issue has established a competitive market with large economic stakes for research, treatment, and screening equipment. Breast cancer affects 1 in 11 women, affects women in all demographic groups, and currently has a variable response to medical treatment. It kills 40,000 women a year in the United States and is the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 40 and 59.[1] This may explain that although the current leading cause of death in U.S. women is heart disease, more money is raised per year for breast cancer research because breast cancer activists are able to tap into this strong emotional issue for women.[2] Because breast cancer is so pervasive among women, the symbol of support for breast cancer awareness, the pink ribbon, has become ubiquitous in the United States. This visibility attracted the attention of medical corporations, such as DuPont and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, who considered this a co-marketing opportunity, simultaneously marketing their brand to the public and their products to the medical profession. Breast cancer activists have worked together with corporations in the 1990s and 2000s to influence medical research, particularly emphasizing earlier cancer detection and less toxic therapies. Other non-medical corporations, such as Yoplait, have shown that co-marketing with the pink ribbon can be a successful strategy to improve their corporate image and visibility while increasing funding for breast cancer research.

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