The Super Bowl would probably prefer to not have anything to do with cannabis, but the cannabis industry and football are destined to work together. Whether it’s the rejected Super Bowl ad from Acreage Holdings Inc. (ACRG.U) or dispensaries running super bowl promotions the two keep crossing paths. Plus, there is the issue of cannabis being used to treat former players who suffer from head injuries.
The NFL even found itself mentioned in the Pennsylvania Auditor General report saying, “ In 2018, the NFL rejected an unprecedented therapeutic-use exemption request from running back Mike James, a free agent who sought medical marijuana treatment to break a dependence on opioids. If players’ access to medical marijuana is going to be compromised, legalizing marijuana altogether would make it unnecessary to threaten Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers players with suspension, fines, and banishment from the league over its use.”
The report went on to note that its cherished Philadelphia Eagles could be hurt by if players sought to live in states where cannabis is legal in order to treat themselves. “As marijuana is legalized in other states, it could incentivize athletes — who literally injure themselves for our entertainment — to seek to be traded to states where they can legally access pain management and do not have to wait for exemptions to stay off opioids.
Brady Cobb is a medical cannabis pioneer and the CEO of SOL Global– which is currently in the middle of a five-year study at the University of Miami on how CBD can help treat concussions. He said, “The NFL is holding onto this long-held association between cannabis and Reefer Madness. It’s been only recently, with newly enacted legislation, that the public and companies are recognizing the difference between the non-psychoactive medical properties of CBD and the mind-altering effects of THC. With the farm bill’s passage, I think it’s only a matter of time that the NFL catches up to the NHL and other sports leagues that realize the real potential of the healing benefits of CBD.
He noted that the players and the players’ association all support looking into and researching the effects of using cannabis and CBD in treatment. When asked about CBS rejecting the proposed ad which only showed patients discussing how medical marijuana helped them he said, “CBS’s position is clearly completely at odds with the public’s position. A recent Gallup poll shows that the public supports cannabis upwards of 66% to 67%. So six out of ten people watching the super bowl – if not more, considering the demographic – could ultimately be a consumer of the products.”
The issue of cannabis advertising during football only looks to be getting more attention versus dwindling away. “With the increasing efforts to legalize cannabis products for both medical and recreational use, advertising standards and practices are coming rapidly into focus,” said Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing. “While CBS snubbed an ad for medical marijuana during the Superbowl — they did consider it. The mere fact that the network considered an ad for cannabis shows that we’ve turned a corner, and we’re going to see advertising and branding for these products come rapidly into the mainstream.” Gabor is the author of the new book, releasing nationwide March 2019 titled, Irrational Loyalty: Building a Brand That Thrives in Turbulent Times.
Gabor noted that the cannabis industry has been working hard to overcome stereotypes and change perceptions of the culture of marijuana usage. “Advertising to large audiences like those watching the Super Bowl — and getting in on the PR value of Super Bowl advertising — is one tactic in kickstarting a perceptual change,” she said.
Even though CBS has refused the ad, the stadium doesn’t seem to have as big of a problem. A CBD-infused coffee and will be allowed during the game at the stadium in Atlanta. “While this is not technically a Super Bowl commercial, this is a sponsorship activation, which is designed to engage audiences in a more experiential fashion. While it’s unclear to me what CBS’ advertising policy says, and whether this would constitute a violation of that, I’m sure that CBS is concerned about this from the perspective of wanting to manage their OWN brand as a media company,” added Gabor.
While the experts debate the ability to run a medical marijuana ad, dispensaries have no problem capitalizing on the event for sales. Some companies are suggesting added their CBD tinctures to recipes like salsa and others suggest drinking cannabis-infused beverages instead of alcohol. “Cannabis sales leaped 40% last year on the Saturday before the big game and this year could rise even higher thanks to California’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana,” said cannabis software company Green Bits.
In Washington, Mt. Hood Cannabis Company will deliver a free cheese or pepperoni pizza with the purchase and delivery of any half-ounce of pot Feb 1st, 2nd, and 3rd over the big Game Day weekend.
“We were enjoying a joint and a slice of Mogul Mountain pizza while brainstorming marketing opportunities for our dispensary when it hit us. Let’s announce our new weed delivery with free pizza, and what better way to kick it off than over Super Bowl weekend. Our shop works really hard to engage the local business community and since their pizza was so inspirational, partnering with Mogul Mountain Pizza was a no brainer,” said Devin Houston, Director of Marketing, Mt. Hood Cannabis Company.