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Alcohol Companies' Pink Campaigns Anger Breast Cancer Survivors

10:28 AM, Oct 5, 2010   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- Consumers who want to support breast cancer research through shopping can choose from pink T-shirts, lip gloss and, increasingly, booze.

Mike's Hard Lemonade now comes in a pink variety. Pink wines sport pink ribbons. And Chambord, which markets pink vodka and liqueurs, urges people to "pink their drink," saying that "by adding a splash of Chambord to any cocktail, you're supporting breast cancer awareness year-round."

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All of them have given money to breast cancer causes - and highlight the donations in their ads.

That has led to criticism by some breast cancer survivors, who say it's hypocritical to raise money for research while selling a product that contributes to the disease.

Both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute say even moderate drinking increases breast cancer risk.

"Anybody trying to sell alcohol to promote breast cancer awareness should be ashamed of themselves," says Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an advocacy group.

Chambord's website notes that its Pink Your Drink campaign has raised more than $50,000 in donations for the Breast Cancer Network of Strength and other patient groups.

Mike's Hard Lemonade has given $500,000 over the past two years to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, company President Phil O'Neil says. The company was inspired by the loss of an employee named Jacqueline who died after a long battle with breast cancer.

"The donations we make to breast cancer research are not tied to sales; they are our way of honoring Jacqueline," O'Neil said in a statement.

In many cases, cause-related marketing is not about charity, says Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University: "These businesses are promoting their product."

At least one breast cancer charity is walking away from alcohol-related gifts. "We have a partnership with alcohol, and I don't understand it, either," says Cindy Geoghegan, the new interim CEO at Breast Cancer Network for Strength. "Those kinds of relationships will not continue."

And though the Breast Cancer Research Foundation appreciates donations from Mike's Hard Lemonade, spokeswoman Anna DeLuca says, the group "in no way, shape or form endorses the consumption of alcohol."

"This donation does not constitute a partnership," DeLuca says.

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