No More, The NFL’s Domestic Violence Partner, Is A Sham

An excerpt from THIS article:

The brands have spoken, and they want you to know that domestic violence and sexual assault are bad. In fact, the brands not only think they’re bad, but have a theory as to why they persist: the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault don’t have a strong enough brand. So, to help get America talking about these issues, the brands created a brand, and partnered with other brands to promote this brand. And this is how No More—a more or less imaginary brand made by brands to help domestic violence and sexual assault with their brand problem—came to be.

It’s no wonder Roger Goodell and NFL owners ran to No More with open arms when their $10 billion sports enterprise was faced with a serious public relations crisis, the culmination of years of paying little thought to players accused of domestic violence. No More was the perfect fit for a brand with a problem. So it came to pass that the NFL, as part of its anti-domestic violence initiative, partnered with a branding campaign co-founded by one of its crisis-management consultants and, this past weekend, ran an advertisement for it before the biggest audience in American television history.

Before going further, let’s acknowledge a difficult part of this discussion: domestic violence and sexual assault are horrific and almost unbelievably widespread, and any help in the fight against them is welcome. What No More sets out to do is good. Still, this is the beginning of a story we’ve all seen before with Pinktober, LIVESTRONG, and even the incredibly important but eventually coopted AIDS ribbon. What begins as a push for change becomes an invisible force telling us that we must buy specific items and wear certain logos so we can feel better about ourselves, and if we go along, we do so not because we care but because we don’t want to feel left out. What good this does for people in need of help isn’t always clear, but it’s great for the brands, because all they have to do is slap logos on a few products and/or advertisements and throw a few pennies to charity to make themselves seem socially conscious. These logos are an embodiment of magical thinking, promising that you can do good without having to actually do anything. They’re shams, basically. Now, we’ve got another one.

How No More began

No More, the latest entry in the great American tapestry of brands saying they care,started in 2009—or at least talk about starting it began in 2009. Virginia Witt, director of No More (the small group doesn’t have any full-time professional staff), said that’s when domestic-violence and sexual assault groups decided to “radically change how these issues are seen and addressed, and in doing so brought together dozens of leaders from the prevention field, along with experts in marketing, communications and branding.” The problem, they decided, was that these issues had a brand problem. The solution? Make a logo for them. From Witt (emphasis mine):

The idea was to give domestic violence and sexual assault something these issues had never had: a unifying brand. The idea to bring these two movements together came from the interconnectedness of the issues. Intimate partner violence, as defined by the CDC, includes both, and very often they are experienced together. And so after a year of planning, hours of donated volunteer time and consultation from leading creative experts, research and focus testing the NO MORE brand was developed in 2010 and 2011.

The logo was created pro bono by Sterling Brands, who’ve done brand work for Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Disney, Bayer, Google, Visa, Time Warner, and Pepsico. Sterling Brands’ website says it does three things really well: brand strategy, brand design, and brand innovation. They certainly sound qualified to create a brand, and they did. It was unveiled in 2012, but because this was something created by and for brands, who by definition love public relations, there was also an official public launch in March 2013. So, from start to finish, it took about five years (and the doubtless valuable work of a number of marketing professionals) for the brands to give domestic-violence and sexual assault prevention efforts a brand so that we could support the fight against them better.


When I sent Witt a list of questions about what exactly No More is and what exactly it is they do, her response mentioned the AIDS ribbon and the fight to raise awareness of the virus three times. The AIDS ribbon, she told me, was their model. So it may be worth revisiting the first big moment for the AIDS ribbon, which was not given an official public launch after years of research and focusing testing, but crashed the Tonys after being created in a few weeks by a group of artists who gathered in a shared gallery space in New York City because they just had to do something. From The New York Times:

EVERYTHING was, at first, handmade. Painters, curators, museum administrators, they stood at work tables in a costume studio crafting their memorials. Some cut the narrow red grosgrain from spools; others folded the strips of fabric and stitched gold safety pins to the backs. They talked all the while, caught up with each other as at a quilting bee, tedious and comforting. And amazingly efficient. After four and a half hours of elegy and dish, that first bee last May produced 3,000 ribbons, enough for the satin lapels and glittering bodices at the Tonys a week later.

Consistency had not been a priority. Jeremy Irons’s came out looking like basset-hound ears; Willa Kim’s was the size of a pinkie. But they were enough alike to make a statement; the question was, what statement? Viewers of the telecast were never told that the pert red inverted V’s were meant to symbolize awareness of AIDS; and so, in their debut, the ribbons actually came to symbolize ignorance of the awareness of AIDS. It was not the last of the ironies.

Who is behind all this?

No More describes itself as a “non-profit project” of Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation. (Asked to clarify what that means, Witt said, “NO MORE is non-profit project in the sense that it is a project of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization.”) Everything that comprises No More, though—their logo’s trademark, their webpage, their funding—comes back to corporations. When I asked who is paying for No More, Witt told me it’s supported by the corporations listed on their homepage—Viacom, Prudential, Allstate, Verizon, and so on. Their trademark and web domains are owned by Kate Spade, a company known less for charity than for $358 purses that exude a certain WASPy charm. And it was co-founded by Jane Randel, a former senior vice-president with Kate Spade whospecializes in “reputation and crisis management,” “corporate rebranding,” and “cause marketing campaigns.”

Jane Randel is now an NFL consultant, brought on during the public relations crisis caused by the league’s poor handling of several prominent players accused of domestic violence; she signed the post-Super Bowl email sent out to those who signed the group’s online pledge to say, “No more.” It’s a telling set of of relationships. No More is a brand created as an extension of other brands, and has come to prominence at a time when its co-founder, a specialist in using marketing tactics to change the reputation of brands and make them seem socially conscious, found herself with a client in need of precisely these services. It’s all the more telling given that No More doesn’t seem to actually do anything, aside from existing as a brand.

What do they do?

The most confusing thing about No More, which describes itself as “an awareness symbol and movement,” may not be that it doesn’t seem to do anything, but that it doesn’t even purport to do much in particular.

“Our role,” the group says, “is to raise awareness … and attract more resources and support for our partner groups.”

How much awareness they’ve raised is unknown and unknowable, but attracting resources and support for domestic-violence organizations is a concrete goal that should lead to measurable results, good or bad. This, though, was the response I got when I asked Virgina Witt to estimate how much money No More helps direct to domestic-violence nonprofits:

We don’t have an exact total of how much money and support has been generated for the field because of NO MORE. But as more celebrities, brands and advocates get behind it, and the profile of NO MORE continues to go up, we are confident that it will continue to be seen as asset to them. The symbol was created with the support of two dozen domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organizations who are using NO MORE in all kinds of ways. Some have developed their own NO MORE products – lapel pins, clothing, and jewelry – that they sell to make money that supports their work. Others have used NO MORE as the branding for consumer engagement events to raise awareness and support in their communities. Every person coming to NO MORE’s website is directed to our partner organizations, as we don’t accept individual donations. And dozens of nonprofit groups have co-branded the NO MORE PSAs produced by Joyful Heart Foundation.

Read generously, this is just marketing jargon (“brands … an asset … consumer engagement”) wrapped around an admission that no one has any idea whether or not No More actually does anything tangible for groups fighting domestic violence and sexual assault. Taken at face value, as it probably should be, it suggests that the measure of success for No More isn’t whether it actually directs new funding to, say, hotlines, shelters, and lawyers, but whether those who are already fighting domestic violence use No More branding in their own fundraising operations.

I took the No More pledge on their website. Since then, the only thing I’ve received from them is an email from Randel asking me to please share their advertisement on Facebook.

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