Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Consumerism versus Support? Should we buy that Boston tribute shirt...headband....bracelet?

Just read this article about whether or not it's a good thing to go out and purchase items in support of the tragedy that happened last Monday at the Boston marathon.  And, I--of course--have a few things to say!

In the article, "Angela Eikenberry, assistant professor of public administration at the University of Nebraska Omaha, questioned whether the rush to link buying to giving is the best way to help those in need.

'People are trying to be engaged and trying to figure out how to fit philanthropy in within their busy lifestyles,' Eikenberry said. 'There's a natural need to want this to happen, to wish ourselves citizen-consumers that can solve problems through more buying.

'But there's this disconnect,' she continued. 'There's research that suggests that when people buy these products, where there's a promise of charity involved, then they think, 'I guess I've done my part.' And people tend to think they've done more than they actually have.

'Why didn't they just donate money instead?' Eikenberry said."

In some ways, I'm a typical American, but I'm also "weird" as Dave Ramsey would say because I subscribe to a debt-free lifestyle and really dislike the amount of consumerism prevalent in the US today.  Having said that, there I was--on the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) site Tuesday morning trying to figure out if it was appropriate for a back-of-the-packer like me to purchase an official 2013 Marathon shirt.  After consultation with someone who has "been there," I decided to get one that looked like it could be a general Marathon shirt--not one that an official runner would wear.  (And, I certainly didn't get "the jacket"  because that is kind of the equivalent of golf's green Master's jacket!)  

In corollary to this story, some of you know that I created an image that went viral on the afternoon of Monday, April 15.  This is it:

As of today, it has had more than 13,000 shares on Facebook and beyond.  And, more, it also inspired One More Mile to create a t-shirt as part of a group of shirts designed to show tribute to the victims and survivors.  All proceeds from these and their other shirts would go to One Fund, the foundation created to "help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013."

Here's the One More Mile t-shirt:   

I can only imagine how difficult it was for companies like One More Mile (OMM) to determine what to do in response to the Boston tragedy.   On one hand, people were clamoring for t-shirts.  When OMM posted a question about the design of this particular shirt, they had hundreds of responses within minutes.  And, that generated more comments and suggestions about tshirts people wanted to buy.  On several other sites, shirts sold out within hours, leaving hundreds if not thousands of people disappointed. (And, yes, I have an order placed for "my" OMM shirt and am anxiously waiting for it to arrive.)

On the other hand, it certainly could be construed as a marketing opportunity. After all, even if they donate all the profits, don't these companies get recognition that could benefit them in the end?  

So, what are they to do?  Talk about the proverbial "being between a rock and a hard place."  In my opinion, these companies acted responsibly and well in response to the demand. Any companies I'm familiar with are donating the proceeds to a charity and I truly believe they created them to be part of "it". 

Plus, people revert to what they know.  The off-duty Boston ER doc went to the emergency room as soon as he heard what happened.  Ordinary citizens lined up to donate blood because that's all they could do at the time.  T-shirt makers?  They thought about what t-shirts they could make.  We all look for ways to do what we can.

Let's get to Professor Eikenberry's question. Yes, any one of us could and may have donated money directly. But, that doesn't make us "one" with what happened.  Rightly or wrongly, we want to be visible in that support.  We want others to know we care.  I don't think it's a matter of the money to support the cause as it is the visible reminder that we, too, were affected in some (albeit small) way. And, we get the added benefit that there is money going to help the victims. 

After all, many runners were listening to the broadcast of the run or at least tracking the runners they knew.  Many of us felt unity with the marathon before the events unfolded that afternoon because most runners I know would love to be able to "Boston Qualify" (whether they will admit it out loud or not.)

And, why else would thousands of runners across the country participate in tribute runs?  Most of them are asking the participating runners to wear Boston blue and gold.  Why else?  To show support.  To show that--even though we can't be there to kick the bomber's ass, we'll continue to run and support each other as runners.  'Cause that's what runners do.  

And, make a purchase to support the cause?  Well, like it or not, that's what Americans do.  

Now, if you'll forgive me, I'm off to buy my Sweaty Band tribute headband as well....

But, you tell me....

Is it OK to purchase Boston tribute wear?


  1. Linda...I really LOVE this entry~~~ You make a LOT of great points...esp. that we runners LOVE the idea of supporting others in many different ways, ESPECIALLY by wearing RUNNING related GEAR!

    1. Thanks, Lu! The longer I identify myself as a runner, the cooler I think runners are!!

  2. Adidas, one of the major Boston Marathon sponsors, also produced a t-shirt product (which I also ordered) "Boston stands as one", with the profits going to the One Fund Boston charity. I just received a mass email from Adidas - the response has been so overwhelming that they've already raised over $1,000,000 (yes million) for the One Fund Boston. Personally, that's marketing I'm willing to be part of and a shirt I will proudly wear this weekend in DC before the Nike Women's DC Half Marathon. Personally, I also sent a donation directly to the charity, but not everyone is in the position financially to do that. (Hopefully, my OMM shirt will arrive before next weekend's Philadelphia Broad Street Run.)

    1. Took me a while to remember how to reply!! That's what happens when you're a newbie at something. But, thanks for letting me know about the $1 million from Adidas. I purchased a regular marathon shirt before the tribute ones were available. I so agree that it's marketing I'm willing to be a part of too!

  3. Lots of non t-shirt support activities up here in Ottawa: Walk to US embassy, one-min silence, wearing BM colour in races, etc.

    1. Thanks for the Canadian perspective! Very cool that there was a walk to the US Embassy. My next blog (coming out tomorrow) will show all the tributes to Boston at the PGH marathon.