Buying Into Development?

Lisa Ann Richey, Ph.D. Professor. Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University. 

Stefano Ponte, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School.

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What links a handmade necklace of paper beads with a pair of Emporio Armani (RED) sunglasses or a pack of disposable diapers with a pink BMW luxury car?  Belonging in the time of neoliberalism shapes our politics and our purchases.  ‘Beads For Life’ are certified by Martha Stewart as ‘eradicating poverty one bead at a time.’  Bono assures us that a percentage of the profits of all (RED) co-branded products goes directly to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.  The voice of Salma Hayek, famous Mexican-American actress, informs consumers that ‘one pack of pampers=one lifesaving vaccine’; and the cast of the hit TV series ‘Friends’ tours in support of BMWs ultimate drive to raise money to fight breast cancer. All of these products are marketed through celebrities to ‘causumers’ who want to shop for a better world. These consumers, allied with corporations, are becoming new actors in international development through Brand Aid.

In Brand Aid forms of cause-related marketing,  ‘ethical’ products are sold by marketing values of  Western ‘helping’ through proper purchasing.  If as Brockington has argued, the increasing presence of corporate actors in relationships between NGOs and public figures or celebrities reflects the rise of cause-related marketing initiatives:  ‘it is good business sense to build relationships with NGOs, particularly if it then results in associations between that business and famous faces.’ This project studies the relationships between businesses, causes and the celebrities that work to mediate between them.

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