Sponsor Insights

As CBD’s Popularity Grows, Will Other Leagues Follow MLB?

While CBD products become increasingly popular around the world, the CBD category is also steadily on the rise: the number of CBD brands actively buying sponsorship/media has increased 145% since 2020, with more than 250 brands activating over the last 12 months. 

Even U.S. pro sports have begun to embrace the fledgling category, thanks to MLB’s groundbreaking decision in June 2022 allowing teams to sign CBD brands to sponsorship deals. That milestone was followed by the historic announcement in October 2022 that CBD brand Charlotte’s Web had inked a strategic, exclusive multi-year partnership with the league. And just earlier this month on April 7th, the Chicago Cubs announced a deal with MYND DRINKS that made the hemp-based beverage brand its Official CBD Partner–and the first CBD partner of an MLB club. 

CBDMD, 3Chi, and Charlotte’s Web tie for 1st atop the category by number of sponsorships,  with fourfive and Beam Organics rounding out the top five. 34% of all active brands in this category leverage media properties or endorsers and influencers via social media partnerships. 3Chi’s deal with Barstool Sports–which is promoted on Barstool’s KFC Radio, Spittin Chiclets, and Chicks in the Office podcasts–illustrates brand sponsors’ potential for cross-promotion within media companies: the podcasts promote the partnership, as do the host podcasters, influencers themselves who repost co-branded stories to their personal accounts–thus multiplying 3Chi’s visibility across multiple channels and growing its reach well beyond the parameters of the original dea making these assets even more desirable when inking a deal. 

Social posts are the most leveraged asset outside of property entitlements within this category, with 40% of deals including a social post. Four of the top five social posts by total engagement in the last 12 months were by athletes or influencers, with Beam Organics and Love Hemp each owning two of the five top posts. The top performer–a co-branded UFC and Love Hemp Instagram post partnership showcasing the matchups for a UFC card in London–garnered nearly 130K engagements. 

As the CBD category continues to evolve, will the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS follow MLB’s lead and also greenlight CBD sponsors? And will Charlotte’s Web and MYND DRINKS look to dominate the category within America’s favorite pastime, or will more brands scramble to grab a piece of the action by partnering with other teams? Only time will tell. 

New & Revised Sponsorships Mirror Fans’ Evolving Tastes

The 2022 MLB season saw the league take baseball audiences’ changing appetites to heart–as reflected in a groundbreaking new sponsorship category and restructured longtime sponsorship agreements. 

MLB’s landmark approval of CBD sponsorships for teams last June–and the league’s own deal with CBD brand Charlotte’s Web to become MLB’s first-ever CBD sponsor, inked this month–underscores its groundbreaking efforts to cater to fans’ evolving tastes and further expand its fan base, a progressive approach that’s sure to attract even more savvy brands to baseball. 

Following the landmark June announcement last June, CBD inquiries increased 9x versus the month before, as MLB bigwigs researched over 150 cannabis brands. cbdMD led the list of CBD companies searched most frequently by MLB executives on the SU platform during the 2022 season–joining two others among the top 10 most searched brands overall.

Meanwhile, MLB’s sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch InBev–the longest in the league’s history at 42 years–extended A-B InBev’s marketing rights beyond Budweiser, the league’s co-exclusive beer sponsor, to encompass the megabrewer’s canned cocktails and hard seltzers. The move reflects the burgeoning popularity of other beverages within the Alcohol category, while beer’s own share has declined 13% over the last five years.

MLB Greenlights CBD

Given Major League Baseball’s landmark announcement last week that teams can now sell CBD sponsorships, the already buzzy category will soon be top of mind for many in pro sports. With more than 160 CBD brands buying sponsorship or media, MLB executives can expect an influx of calls from those vying for the coveted distinction of becoming the official CBD partner of an MLB team. 

Time will tell if MLB players will also dive into CBD, following athletes like NFL star Dalvin Cook–who endorses CBD brand Medterra–and PGA golfers Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, who both have deals with CBD sponsorship leader cbdMD.  

Another sign of the CBD industry’s burgeoning momentum? Two CBD brands–cbdMD and Charlotte’s Web–made the top 50 in SponsorUnited’s June most-searched list. 

Here’s a snapshot of current trends across properties where CBD partnerships are legal.

The current CBD industry leaders in terms of total sponsorship deals:

  1. cbdMD
  2. 3Chi
  3. Beam Organics
  4. Charlotte’s Web
  5. Select
  6. Pure Spectrum
  7. Trulieve
  8. Cannadips
  9. Mendi
  10. Love Hemp

The most popular assets bought by CBD brands are social media posts, property entitlements, digital content, outdoor signage, and event content/activations. Emerging marketing assets include Instagram posts, official sponsor/use of marks, logo displayed on websites, static billboards, and talent endorsements.

Social media is a leading activation for CBD brands–as evidenced by their top-five most engaged posts with the following properties: 

  1. Jon Jones X Just CBD | Engagement: 186,479
  2. Kamaru Usman X Love Hemp | Engagement: 176,802
  3. Kamaru Usman X Love Hemp | Engagement: 159,361
  4. Charles Oliveira X AthletiCBD | Engagement: 128,363
  5. Ultimate Fighting Club (UFC) X Love Hemp | Engagement: 123,344

Cannabis Category | SponsorInsight

As the Cannabis industry grows around the US and across the world, the brands buying sponsorship / media has increased by 132% since 2020. The top brands within the Cannabis category are Beam Organics, cbdMD & 3Chi respectively, while cbdMD, Mendi & CBDMedic are the most searched brands by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform.

Which CDB brands in ‘22 have been the most active in signing new partnerships?

Apr ’22 – Craft 1861 extended their global sports partnership portfolio into motorcycle racing by naming MotoGP its Wellness Partner, as well as announcing a deal with Pramac Racing. The multi-year deal is the first of its kind in Motorsport.

Feb ’22 – Spartan partnered with Gameday CBD as their Official CBD Partner for the 2022 race season. The partnership will focus on digital content within their social media platforms, the Spartan website. It will also have in- person interactions such as product sampling at obstacle course racing events.

Jan ’22 – 3CHI teamed up with Richard Childress Racing and Tyler Reddick’s No. 8 Car for the NASCAR Cup Series team in 2022, the first category-specific team partnership in NASCAR.

Cannabis Category Report