Online Program

Red flags on pink drinks: When companies market alcohol to prevent cancer

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 9:30 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.

Sarah Mart, MS, MPH, Research & Policy, Alcohol Justice, San Rafael, CA
Norman Giesbrecht, Ph.D., Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada
For nearly a decade, a number of alcohol companies have created and used pink beer, wine, spirits, and flavored malt beverage products, along with the iconic pink ribbon and other breast cancer-related content, as cause marketing: promotional activities that add value to brands by integrating philanthropic values with profits. Various cancer charities have entered into alliances with sectors of the alcohol industry in order to raise funds for cancer research, treatment, or prevention by promoting the purchase of alcoholic beverages. Some alcohol brands have associated products with specific breast cancer causes and charities.
Meanwhile, the evidence of alcohol as a contributing cause of certain cancers, including breast cancer, continues to grow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified beverage alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen (cancerous to humans) since 1988. There is no u-shaped curve for cancer, and threshold of elevated relative risk is as low as one drink a day for certain cancers. Alcohol intake is a risk factor for developing breast cancer, and also can have a negative effect on the course of the disease.
We examined online examples of marketing materials for alcohol products using pink ribbon and breast cancer awareness marketing campaigns, including official product websites and press releases, blogs, social media platforms, and news articles. We analyzed the marketing examples using critical questions from a national breast cancer watchdog campaign, including: breast cancer charities and total donation amounts made by the alcohol companies; cancer charity activities funded by the donations; caps/limits and timelines set by the companies for their donations; and potential consumer exposure to carcinogens linked to breast cancer from the product. We will discuss our findings along with the policy implications and recommendations for alcohol companies, breast cancer charities, mass media, regulators, and public health policy stakeholders.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify alcohol products and promotions that use the pink ribbon symbol and related branding materials to associate the product with breast cancer; Compare examples of pink alcohol campaigns to critical watchdog questions regarding named cancer charities, donation totals, funded activities, and product connections to carcinogen exposure; Describe policy implications for alcohol companies, cancer charities, public health nonprofits, and regulators.

Keyword(s): Public Policy, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the author or co-author of multiple reports and peer-reviewed journal articles on alcohol policy, the alcohol industry, and corporate influence. I conducted this research on alcohol products' pink ribbon/breast cancer campaigns.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.