In a groundbreaking shift within the sports industry, a wave of change has swept across professional leagues, allowing sports teams and athletes to embrace CBD sponsorships. Previously plagued by stringent regulations and misconceptions surrounding cannabidiol (CBD), sports organizations have recognized the therapeutic potential of this non-intoxicating compound derived from hemp. With its many benefits and ability to promote overall wellness, CBD has emerged as a natural alternative for athletes seeking to optimize their performance and well-being. As the doors open to these innovative partnerships, a new era dawns, bridging the gap between sports and the benefits of CBD sponsorship.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. It is one of over 100 cannabinoids identified in these plants. Unlike its counterpart THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, meaning it does not produce the euphoric or mind-altering effects typically associated with marijuana use.
It's important to note that CBD products can come in various forms, including oils, tinctures, capsules, topicals, and edibles. They can be derived from hemp, which contains minimal THC levels (0.3% or less) by legal definition, making them widely available in many jurisdictions. However, regulations regarding CBD can vary, so it's essential to be aware of local laws and regulations before purchasing or using CBD products.
Ban on Official CBD Sponsorships
Sports organizations have traditionally banned CBD sponsors due to several factors that contributed to the stigma surrounding cannabis-related products. One primary reason was the association of CBD with marijuana, which contains psychoactive compounds, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, CBD was often mistakenly lumped together with marijuana and considered a banned substance under the umbrella of anti-doping policies and regulations.
Additionally, sports leagues have historically maintained strict policies to ensure a level playing field, often prohibiting the use of substances or products that could potentially provide an unfair advantage to athletes. The lack of scientific research and comprehensive understanding of CBD's effects also played a role, leading to cautious and conservative approaches by sports organizations. However, as scientific evidence and public perception surrounding CBD evolved, these barriers gradually began to crumble, prompting sports leagues to reconsider their stance on CBD sponsorships.
Athlete Advocates Using CBD
Despite limited opportunities for CBD brands to partner directly with professional sports franchises, the spotlight has shifted towards sponsoring individual athletes. Notably, esteemed retired athletes like Al Harrington, a 16-year veteran and BIG3 player who is now the CEO and co-founder of Viola Brands, and NFL star Rob Gronkowski have become prominent endorsers of these brands. Both Harrington and Gronkowski have passionately advocated for CBD, drawing from their personal experiences. Gronk, having undergone nine surgeries and numerous injuries throughout his NFL career, has enthusiastically praised CBD for its remarkable pain relief benefits.
Similarly, Harrington was introduced to the potential of CBD after witnessing its positive impact on his grandmother's pain and vision problems. Their endorsements serve as powerful testimonials to the effectiveness of CBD and its potential to improve the lives of athletes and individuals alike.
Changing Tides in CBD Sponsorships
In a momentous development set to reverberate throughout the sports industry, Major League Baseball (MLB) and its teams have been granted the freedom to engage in CBD sponsorships, marking the creation of a new sponsorship category in professional sports. League officials recently informed team marketers that CBD companies are now officially considered an "approved category," provided they are certified by the testing organization NSF to contain non-psychoactive levels of THC.
While other major North American leagues have previously prohibited CBD sponsorships, MLB aims to tap into the expanding CBD market in the United States. The potential financial impact of CBD sponsorships within MLB remains uncertain, but optimistic estimates project the global CBD market to reach $4.9 billion this year and skyrocket to $47 billion by 2028.
With NSF certification being a key requirement, MLB Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden emphasized the league's cautious approach, highlighting the ongoing certification process for several brands. However, Garden expressed enthusiasm about the potential alignment between CBD companies and MLB's fanbase, citing the opportunity as a positive one for both the league and its teams.
MLB and Charlotte’s Web
Since the MLB has announced the new CBD sponsorship category, they have also announced their first official CBD sponsor for the league. The MLB organization has entered the CBD arena through an exclusive multi-year partnership with Charlotte's Web Holdings Inc., a leading CBD product manufacturer. Charlotte's Web will assume the prestigious title of the "Official CBD of Major League Baseball."
The MLB partnership aligns with Charlotte's Web's imminent release of Daily Edge, a tincture and the first CBD product to receive NSF's certification for sport designation. This groundbreaking product will prominently feature MLB's logo on its bottle, symbolizing the union between CBD and America's national pastime.
Chicago Cubs and CBD
In a landmark move within Major League Baseball (MLB), the Chicago Cubs have forged a historic partnership with Mynd Drinks, marking the team's first-ever sponsorship deal with a CBD company. This groundbreaking agreement, as highlighted in an MLB news release, makes the Cubs the first individual MLB club to enter such a partnership.
Based in Chicago, Mynd Drinks—a wellness and beverage brand—will enjoy various activations within the iconic Wrigley Field, including baseline signage, in-game features, and, notably, international marketing rights in the United Kingdom during the 2023 regular season, marking another first for the Cubs.
The Cubs' Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Alex Seyferth, emphasized the importance of finding the right brand fit for the team. Notably, the Cubs' partnership announcement coincided with the groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement reached between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its players union, enabling NBA athletes to invest in and promote cannabis companies—a significant shift within U.S. professional sports leagues.
Will Other Sports Follow Suit?
With the ever-evolving CBD landscape, the question arises: will other major professional sports leagues like the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS follow in MLB's footsteps and allow CBD sponsors? The precedent set by MLB's partnership with Charlotte's Web and MYND DRINKS raises anticipation for potential opportunities within America's favorite pastime. However, as the CBD industry gains momentum, it remains to be seen whether other CBD brands will scramble to secure their place in the action by forming partnerships with teams across different leagues. The future holds the answer, and only time will reveal the extent of CBD's presence and dominance within the sports sponsorship landscape.
While the chances of catching E1011 Labs logo on a baseball jersey may not be in the immediate future, you can find us in your mailbox by ordering a Starter Bundle, or any of our other cannabinoid filled products. Once you find the flavor, or flavors, to fit your mood, we offer a subscription service to make sure you never have to miss a session.