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October a target for 'pinkwashing'

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Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness
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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The beginning of fall has always been considered a colorful time of year and in recent years, pink has made its way into October to raise the awareness of breast cancer and the need for regular mammograms.

Major companies and organizations launched awareness campaigns including the NFL, some universities, government officials, merchandisers, and more.

Pink products can be found everywhere from clothing stores to restaurants, it's almost unavoidable.

Consumers often have the expectation that they're helping cancer research with their purchases, but the Arizona Better Business Bureau says that is not always the case.

"Unfortunately there are those companies that are using breast cancer awareness and the 'pink ribbon' as a way to market to consumers without the intention of donating to a charity," the BBB's Felicia Thompson said.

The BBB has recorded numerous complaints of "pinkwashing," a marketing technique that uses the color pink to generate more sales, specifically in the month of October.

"You generally don't know where the money is going," Thompson said.

If consumers don't ask, they can often wrongly assume a portion of their purchase is benefiting cancer research.

Even major businesses, like the National Football League's consumers don't realize exactly how much (or how little) of their purchases are contributed to nonprofits.

For years, the NFL has supported breast cancer awareness by wearing pink on the field and selling pink merchandise. According a league spokesperson, 100 percent of the revenue the NFL receives off these special products and apparel benefit the American Cancer Society.

However, for every $100 purchase, the company that makes the merchandise, usually Nike, receives about $37 and the store that sells you that merchandise banks $50. The NFL only gets about $12 and just a portion of that directly benefits cancer research.

Last year, the NFL had a net worth of around $9 billion but less than $2 million was given to the American Cancer Society.

A cancer survivor in Phoenix, Paulla Miller says where the NFL and other companies really help is with raising awareness to get women to check themselves for early warning signs.

"That should be the bottom line on where the pink is coming from and everything else should be gravy," Miller said.

With every pink item on the shelves, it is raising that awareness of the need for more funding but just how much, if any, is going to nonprofits for cancer research isn't always on the price tag.

"If people truly want to give, they can donate directly," Miller said.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.

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