The NFL’s promotion of breast cancer awareness has stirred up quite a bit of discussion within the social marketing and cause marketing communities (http://lnkd.in/Pb7JNs). I’ve heard applause for the impact that the pink cleats and footballs have made in raising awareness. And I’ve heard complaints – many complaints – that the NFL’s effort was too shallow and focused only on awareness.
“Everyone already knows that breast cancer is a significant health risk.” Really? Before Sunday, I’m not so sure that statement was true for my nieces and their friends who are in their teens and twenties. They are typically more focused on shorter-term concerns.
“Our objective needs to go beyond awareness.” I agree completely. But why does that mean that maintaining awareness isn’t still important? And, couldn’t it be possible that the NFL’s media blitz, even if it was light on on-air behavior change-related messaging, caused some women (and the men who love them) to remember to schedule their mammogram or get back on track with their diet or exercise routine?
In fact, for those who were motivated by all the pink on the field to check out the NFL web site, there’s a link to a pretty complete section (http://www.nfl.com/pink) that encourages plenty of behavior changes: schedule your mammogram and sign up for a yearly reminder; eat right; stay active; donate to the cause, etc.
The NFL is in the entertainment business; they are not a public health agency. They chose to use their tremendous marketing influence to help make some noise about breast cancer. Could they have included more behavior change messaging in the broadcasts? I’m sure they could have. Breast cancer is a complex issue, and there’s always more that can be and should be done. But I think it’s more productive to be grateful for this very successful promotional program that has gotten the country talking about breast cancer prevention and early detection once again. The NFL provided a big spark for continued action, and the smart public health and advocacy organizations will look at how they can build off of and complement this effort with additional behavior change-focused initiatives.