Stand Up to Pink

By John Ekdahl

The Harvard Business Review has found that using the color pink in breast cancer awareness campaigns is actually counterproductive. From the study:

Stefano Puntoni ran a battery of experiments in which he primed women with gender cues by, for example, showing them ads dominated by the color pink or asking them to write essays on gender. He then asked them to rate how likely they thought they were to contract breast cancer or to give money to efforts to eradicate ovarian cancer. The women primed with gender cues were far less likely than the control group to think they’d get cancer””and far less likely to donate.

Well, at least these pink campaigns are memorable, right?

…and those who saw a pink ad about breast cancer were significantly less likely to say that they’d contract the disease than those who saw an ad with neutral colors. We thought, “This can’t be right.” So we kept running studies. We looked at the effects of gender cues on women’s recall. We put breast cancer banner ads on a website we showed the subjects but never mentioned them. When the site was geared to women, 33% of women recalled the ads. When it was gender-neutral, 65% remembered. It’s been three years, and we have duplicated the same basic finding 10 times. It keeps happening.

And what about the men?

In one study we asked women to look at two ads about breast cancer. They found a pink ad harder to read than a more gender-neutral peach ad. We wondered if it was contrast or some other optical effect. But when we asked men about the same ads, they thought the pink one was slightly easier to read. We don’t know too much beyond this. I will say that seeing more men wearing pink as part of breast cancer awareness may start to break down the color’s effect as a gender cue. Or maybe it has an empowering effect on men, who would donate more because of it. We don’t know yet.

So, they are unsure whether pink campaigns affect men positively.

Someone needs to paper the NFL’s league offices with this report. I can handle baseball doing it because it essentially breaks down to 1/162 of the season, but the NFL pink campaign lasts more than a week now, right? I think it’s almost a quarter of the season at this point. You know it’s overkill when you see a “player breakdown” video on ESPN and half the clips are of the player with pink gloves, towels, shoes, sweatbands, etc. (don’t even get me started on the Bengals). I’m all for breast cancer research, but I don’t know if I can endure another pink-ified week of football. It looks atrocious. There, I said it. There’s gotta be a better way.

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Vanderbilt has completed their new football locker room. The full gallery is available here.

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This beautiful picture of the 1910 Louisiana Tech baseball team was sent in by reader Josh McDaniel. Is one of those players wearing white cleats and sweatbands?

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Head on over to this blog for a bunch of photos of the Pac 12’s media day.

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Paul was interviewed again on Sirius XM last night; this time on Dino Costa’s show. Full audio below.

[mp3j track=” Dino with Paul Lukas.MP3″]

Some might say Paul has a great podcasting voice, no?

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And last but not least, did you know yesterday was System Administrator Appreciation Day? I mention this for no reason in particular.

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Benchies HeaderBenchies

by Rick Pearson


Might be a “Be Careful What You Wish For” thing…

7-30-11 d-tupper ALT

And, as always, here is the full-size version.

46 comments to Stand Up to Pink

  • Ricko | July 30, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    “Is one of those players wearing white cleats and sweatbands?”

    Hawk Harrelson’s grandpa, maybe?

    • Phil Hecken | July 30, 2011 at 11:17 am |

      or mick’s

  • Michael | July 30, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    Vandy’s locker room looks great, it’s too bad the team that’ll be using it doesn’t

    • possum | July 30, 2011 at 11:12 am |

      I’m certainly no Vandy fan, but it is definitely spectacular. Who knew that much black and gold in a room would be so visually stunning.

      • Connie | July 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

        Garish, stage-set-like, soulless, jackboot-evoking crap. Bad as a design, worse as a place to get undressed. In my humble etc.

        • Michael Emody | July 31, 2011 at 12:19 am |

          I agree with Connie. I guess if you don’t have to pay the players, you might as well spend a shitload of money of something. If it were up to me, I’d have a secret door in the back of each locker giving each player instant access to an academic tutor.

        • Michael Emody | July 31, 2011 at 12:29 am |

          Correction: ON something. And the second “each” in the last line is better if changed to “every.”

          Seems I had my foot up against the secret door under my desk when I clicked “Submit Comment”.

        • jdreyfuss | July 31, 2011 at 7:20 am |

          This is Vanderbilt. It’s one of the schools where most of the players probably don’t need academic help.

  • wollen1 | July 30, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    I’m glad that there is some objective thought re: pink being flashed so routinely to promote breast cancer awareness. I’m very pro-woman and incredibly anti-cancer, but I can’t f_cking stand it when everyone in the world dresses in a garish color for any cause.

    Hopefully the NFL figures out that it’s not necessary to have its players don pink crap for a solid month every year. My fear is that now that the precedent has been set that NFL players will wear pink gear for the entire month of October, the league will face a terrible PR backlash if the practice is scaled back.

    • Ricko | July 30, 2011 at 10:27 am |

      Said it many times. Any promotion that doesn’t have a viable exit strategy is, well, from a PR standpoint…stupid.

      See “Patriotic MLB hats” (which, unfortunately, I think we will. Forever.)

      • pushbutton | July 30, 2011 at 11:25 am |

        Maybe the exit will be more or less organically determined. People do get sick of gimmicks. Maybe “this is lame” will trump “they don’t care about breast cancer!” sooner than we think. How did we get to this point? I guess you know sports are too big and important when we start overburdening them like a pack mule with the responsibility for educating the masses on important serious subjects.

        Very funny “Benchies” today, btw, Ricko!

        • Jim Vilk | July 30, 2011 at 11:34 am |

          Amen to everything you just said.

        • John Ekdahl | July 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm |

          What we may see is something known as a “preference cascade”. What happens is a person holds a usually falsified opinion largely because he believes those around him share the same belief (“This NFL pink campaign is great!”). When it begins to dawn on the individual that he cannot convince himself of this opinion any longer because the facts are so glaringly obvious (“Actually, this looks terrible”), he begins to vocalize his true feelings on the matter. This vocalization triggers others to see that their privately held opinion no longer has to remain private. And it repeats…

          The term is generally used to describe political figures (we might be witnessing one right now – check the polls) or policies, but I think the term applies here. This process is usually a slow boil, but the NFL went so overboard with the pink last year that they themselves might have unwittingly triggered it.

        • Ricko | July 30, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

          Like Tony Orlando disco shoes.

        • The Jeff | July 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

          …we can only hope

        • Phil Hecken | July 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

          “The term is generally used to describe political figures (we might be witnessing one right now — check the polls)”


          wait, what?

    • -DW | July 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

      I am very sympathetic to the cause, but when the Komen Foundation started suing smaller charities over semantics, I will find other charities to donate my money to.

    • Andrew Seagraves | July 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |

      Oh, it is all over the place… I work at a feed store and people would get weirded out and think we wouldn’t have certain feeds for them because the company we carry changed the color of their bags to pink.

  • Ricko | July 30, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    “System Administrator Appreciation Day”?

    I looked for an SAA Day card in three different Hallmark stores.


    But thanks to you, John, indeed.
    For your technical support AND your editorial contributions. Today’s was especially good…and informative.

    • Jim Vilk | July 30, 2011 at 11:29 am |

      Isn’t there a patch or a set of colored wristbands for that? ;)

      Happy SAA Day, John, and thanks!

  • The Jeff | July 30, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    I still say that the amount of money and resources spent to create all of the pink stuff would be much better spent on actually funding the research in the first place. For Odin’s sake, they sell bags of cat food with pink designs on them for breast cancer. I mean, really?

  • Elliott Josypenko | July 30, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Hi Guys.

    A question for the football helmet gurus.

    I’m respraying an old helmet (to a Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach Navy Mids style), which has a single bar facemask.

    The facemask is chipped a little, so I’d like to fill in the cracks and respray it. It’s currently white, but I always think of single bars as grey. Obviously I want it to be as authentic as possible.

    So… do I spray it white again, or grey (or navy blue)?

    All advice welcome.

  • kyle | July 30, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    I would love love LOVE more pictures, blg entries, and discussion about locker rooms.

  • NavyAM09 | July 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    So as some of you know im in the US Navy, i work in the weld shop for aviation support( my rate is Aviation structural mechanic) we had some extra metal in the scrap bin so i decided to make the arizona cardinals football jersey out of some 1/4th in aluminum.

    thoughts? Any requests for jerseys? i have enough material for a few more

    • NavyAM09 | July 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |

      a ps on this.. all the lines are etched in and the “white” panels on the sides are also etched in deeply.

    • Ricko | July 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

      Am I the only one who thinks that’s really great, really creative?

    • Jim Vilk | July 30, 2011 at 11:40 pm |


    • DanKing9 | July 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm |

      great work and great idea

  • Phil Hecken | July 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    speaking of breast cancer…

    anyone else getting this auto-generated ad?


    • Simply Moono | July 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm |

      Nope. AdBlock.

      • Phil Hecken | July 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

        wait…there’s an ad for adblock?

        • Simply Moono | July 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

          But if so, then that ad should be blocked. Unless… there’s some type of ad conspiracy! One second please… *does calculations*
          GAH! These calculations don’t make any sense! Ugh, my head

  • StLMarty | July 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

    It’s nothing compared to the No Mas video, but it’s pretty nuts.

  • Mike 2 | July 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    “The women primed with gender cues were far less likely than the control group to think they’d get cancer–and far less likely to donate.”

    My 2c – as someone whose mother died of breast cancer:

    As Ricko would say, the way things today aren’t the way things always were. Not that long ago, it was hard to get women to check themselves for lumps. If a woman did find a lump, she might delay telling her doctor or getting treatment because of embarrassment. If a woman got a “woman” cancer like breast cancer or ovarian cancer, they would get treatment but would often lie about what they had because it was shameful.

    The “pink” campaigns have done a great job of destigmatizing the disease, and in getting women to take better care of their health. In that sense, they’ve been a huge success.

    The downside is that the pendulum may have swung too far the other way. Getting cancer should never have been shameful, like it used to be, but now its almost cartoonish. Breast cancer is pink shirts and pink gear and pink feather boas and girl power. Its still a really awful disease that kills a lot of women. So the quote above really stuck with me – the campaigns did a good job of destigmatizing the disease, but they’ve also had the effect of making it almost a “cute” disease, in the way that lung cancer or liver cancer aren’t.

    If you want to get someone to donate to a cancer charity, show them a picture of someone dying of cancer.

  • Mike 2 | July 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm |

    I didn’t get to check in yesterday, but kudos to Morris for a great post.

    The post (obviously) focused on issues in top-level elite sports, but its worth remembering that for every soccer-playing girl who dresses modestly at the elite level, there are 10,000 playing on youth or school teams. And now and then you hear about some girl who wants to play but can’t because of a league president who just has no clue about the diverse religious needs of the entire community. It would be great if every kid got a chance to play, not just in the world cup, but in their local leagues as well.

  • Mike 2 | July 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |

    Finally – picked up a Jets hat today at my local store. They had a big rack of hats and shirts at the front of the store attracting a LOT of attention.

    So far all of the discussion has been about the logo set on our computer monitors, let me say it looks even better on shirts and hats then it does in the abstract.

  • Bob | July 31, 2011 at 11:10 pm |

    It will be extremely difficult to get the NFL to scale back this pink nonsense. Read discussions about the topic anywhere online but here (where the focus is on the aesthetic aspects of the uniform) and all dissenters to this idiotic gimmick are drowned out by a chorus of angry responses. It makes no difference if you try explaining that instead of trotting entire teams out wearing garish hot pink accessories without adequately explaining what they’re about to the fans (as many have no idea what the pink is all about), maybe it would be more helpful and less gimmicky for the NFL to give a minute of its coveted air time to a group like the Komen Foundation for no charge. Maybe give some of the proceeds from the sale of your actual, dignified-looking merchandise to breast cancer research instead of promising 100% of the proceeds from goofy pink crap that nobody (male or female) is going to buy or voluntarily wear because it looks idiotic. But no, if you’re against having your favorite team’s uniform mangled for an entire month (and beyond in the world of highlights and replays) then you’re a misogynistic death-worshiper who wants everyone’s mother, wife, and sister to die painfully.

    I’m sure citing studies like this one will do nothing to ease the vitriol against those of us in the anti-pink crowd. I fear the pink is here to stay, if not become more widespread.

  • Mark in Shiga | August 1, 2011 at 8:38 am |

    I’m a member of the anti-pink crowd too.

    I know I’m not going to win many friends with this comment, but I think it’s an insult to football players in particular to have to participate in a promotion designed for the exclusive benefit of the opposite sex — which already has a life expectancy far above that of men, to say nothing of football player, whose life expectancy is lower still. A comment from puts it in the mid-60s, which is tragically short compared to the average woman.

    And these guys who take a beating every Sunday are supposed to raise money for a group of people who already lives longer and healthier than they do?

    Until recently football players weren’t well-paid at all. When they get to the age that the typical female breast cancer sufferer has reached, they’re suffering too, and might well be on their deathbeds. I’d like to see this promotion scrapped and replaced by one that supports the health of retired football players.

    Are there any women’s sports who do anything — even symbolic — for the exclusive benefit of men, analogous to what the NFL does for women? I’ll reconsider my comments if there are.

    • Bob | August 2, 2011 at 2:12 am |

      I wouldn’t go that far. I will re-iterate that I have no problem with the NFL taking up the cause of breast cancer awareness, I just think there are better ways of doing it than by painting every last thing on the field right down to the players themselves screaming hot pink. A lot of NFL fans are female and pro sports leagues and teams often take up causes that aren’t ostensibly related to the games they play – things for veterans, children’s causes, disaster relief, etc. and that’s all fine and well, but leave the uniforms out of it. Enough of the stars and stripes crap all over the baseball uniforms (although to be fair that flag desecration crap only goes on for a handful of games throughout a 162 game schedule, not a quarter of the God damned season) and please – enough, enough, enough of this pink nonsense.