Recently, a charity called on the government to clamp down on ‘pinking’, which is when alcoholic drink companies heavily target their adverts towards women.
Alcohol Focus Scotland was concerned about the number of seemingly harmless adverts on TV during the Christmas period that encouraged women to drink. Product packaging also incorporates pinking—i.e. pretty gin bottles with glitter floating around the spirit contained inside, like a snow globe. This type of packaging leads women to believe the drink is less potent or more like a fruit punch than a substance with a high alcohol content. Various fruity flavours mask the taste of alcohol, which can also lead to consumers drinking more of it. All in all, pinking makes consuming alcohol an attractive, exciting and appealing endeavour.
From pretty bottles on supermarket shelves and the sheer number of Christmas gifts/sets aimed at women that included alcohol, the market is certainly worth a lot more than it would have a decade ago. However, the fallout of this is more women becoming addicted to alcohol.
In 2020, in Scotland, 364 of the 826 deaths from alcoholism were women, which was a 17% rise on the previous year. Though Alcohol Focus Scotland is doing everything it can to tackle the issue, it led me to think about brands that charities may align with whilst raising funds, and what could be construed from such an alliance.
Alcohol brands aren’t the first choice for many charities when it comes to accepting sponsorship money or grant awards—charities don’t like to be seen condoning or encouraging the consumption of alcohol.
However, the same charities seem to be happy to receive lottery funding, so where does the line get drawn?
Figures gathered by YouGov show that 2.7% of adults in the UK have a significant gambling problem. This may not sound much, but this equates to approximately 1.8 million people.
Admittedly, playing the National Lottery is a mild form of gambling, but it’s gambling all the same. The company that operates the lottery is regulated by the Gambling Commission, and you need to be 18 to purchase a ticket. Though not exactly in the same league as promoting alcohol, the lottery can be viewed by some charities and cultures as a brand they wouldn’t want their cause to be associated with for this reason.
The UK National Lottery raises approximately £1.8m each year for charities across the country. It’s a huge fund to discount when planning your charity’s income, but principles are important. It’s not as if the National Lottery struggles to give its money away—there are always more organisations applying for funds than the lottery has the budget to support.
It’s fairly easy to choose the right grant-making organisation to apply to for money as most clearly state their criteria and objectives; however, it’s more difficult when it comes to private funding and business sponsorship. For instance, in this article, I talked about Alisher Usmanov, the Russian oligarch who is the UK’s most generous private donor to charities; though the £507m he gave last year undoubtedly helped many people across the country, he has his critics as well as criminal convictions. It’s easier for the private sector to bury any misdemeanours or projects that could be deemed in conflict with your cause, or to subdue any bad press…though the latter tends to find its way to the surface eventually.
Charities, certainly in the current economy, however, can’t afford to be too picky—a generous donation could be the difference between staying afloat and dissolution of the organisation. However, as with anything, if you conduct your usual due diligence checks, there’s little else you can do to ensure the company you plan to partner with is going to be more trouble to your organisation than they’re worth.
It’s not just brands, either. Remember the furore around Lance Armstrong a few years ago? A perpetual winner in the field of cycling, he suffered testicular cancer during his career. He beat the disease, however, and his cycling career flourished even further. As someone with lived experience of cancer, Armstrong launched a global foundation to help many others through their cancer journeys. All well and good.
Claims that he used steroids to meet his many achievements had circulated for years, claims Armstrong vehemently denied…until he didn’t. Though he didn’t actually admit to using drugs, he withdrew his fight against what he referred to as false/inaccurate claims. The press and some of his fans took his withdrawal as his admittance that the rumours had been right all along. His façade of ‘cancer-beating sporting hero’ began to crumble. His sponsorship deals fell through as brands refused to work with him. The charity Armstrong founded was intrinsically linked to him; reports claimed that its trustees and those connected with the foundation were ‘embarrassed’ over the furore.
It would be unfair if the organisation endured any criticism as Armstrong’s altruism is a separate issue to the validity of his sporting achievements. There’s only so much that can be checked and researched…sometimes, life just throws curve balls and a charity must simply distance or uncouple itself from its founder or a donor if the person in question is caught up in a scandal of some sort.