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Volume 21 No. 2
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Thinking beyond pink: NFL works to make sure breast cancer message is getting across

With the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign now entering its fourth year, one question that can be asked about the effort is, What’s left on the field to turn pink for the month of October?

NFL players during the first three years of the campaign have worn pink gloves, cleats, shoelaces, chin straps, armbands and wristbands on the field in October. Many of those items subsequently were auctioned off to benefit the American Cancer Society. Games began with a flip of a pink coin, were played with footballs decorated with the BCA pink ribbon logo, and were played on fields bearing the same icon.

Money generated from licensed products like Panini cards has steadily increased.
So what’s left? Well, for starters, kicking tees, which will likely be autographed by a kicker and later auctioned.

But it isn’t just about adding a different hue to NFL fields. The message behind “Awareness” is that early screening, especially for women over the age of 40, is a “Crucial Catch.’’

“Sure, the pinkout is memorable, it pops on TV, and we’re at the point where our fans expect it now,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s vice president of fan strategy and marketing. “Now it’s about making sure those dollars raised work hard and to make that message of screening and our American Cancer Society partnership resonate.”

Money generated by auctions and proceeds from NFL/BCA licensed products (including pink water bottles, jerseys and even pink Terrible Towels) has increased over the three years from $400,000 in 2009 to $1.1 million in 2010 to $1.5 million last year.

“Our research shows that more than 65 percent of NFL fans can identify that getting screened is the key message of our campaign,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL director of community affairs. “So we think the point is getting across.”

Every NFL club will host at least one “Crucial Catch” game this month, starting with this week’s “Monday Night Football” game in Dallas. Some teams will host two games. The last week in October will see the most games dedicated to the BCA effort, which started as a team initiative and grew to a leaguewide marketing platform.

Among the local market highlights will be in Buffalo, which has previously lit Niagara Falls pink as a tribute. This year, the Maid of the Mist tourist boat at the falls will be in on the act, as well.

All league-controlled media will again support the BCA initiative, and while O’Reilly said the NFL RedZone won’t be changing its colors, it was considered. However, some pink FieldTurf will be installed in those network studios for October.