Taking a Shot at Pot

Athletes associated with the NBA have been active in the cannabis sector in the past few months. Sports properties have had a strong presence since partnerships with licensed IP began in this industry in earnest around 2015. The difference with these recent deals is that they focus on marijuana strains and related products rather than CBD, as has been the case for most deals in this space to date. Both types of cannabis-based products have properties that help ameliorate pain, anxiety, joint problems, and other challenges that arise in the world of sports, a benefit that has been stressed in the announcements touting the latest batch of partnerships. But marijuana, unlike CBD, also produces a high.

Here are three examples that have come to light since the the end of July:

  • NBA Hall of Famer Ben Wallace licensed Rair to develop his own strain of marijuana, along with other cannabis products. The first slate of introductions, launching in early 2022, will include cannabis flower, pre-rolls, and vape cartridges. Rair is based in Michigan, where Wallace played during two stints as a member of the Detroit Pistons.
  • Hall of Famer Allen Iverson paired with Voila, a purpose-driven cannabis brand co-founded by another former NBA player, Al Harrington. Iverson’s involvement with the company will be broad and include a variety of promotional elements, as well as a cannabis strain under the banner of The Iverson Collection.
  • Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets paired with Weedmaps, a technology platform for purchasers and fans of cannabis. The partnership, which involves Durant’s investment company Thirty Five Ventures and his media company Boardroom, is expected to extend to co-branded collaborations and exclusive merchandise, along with sponsorships and original content including a podcast.

All of the launch announcements for the deals listed here noted that one of the objectives of the partnership was to end the stigma surrounding cannabis use, as well as tout the health benefits the partners say their products can offer to athletes and other users. The NBA (like other sports leagues) has been wrestling with the growing off-court use of pot among its athletes and how to address it, particularly as legalization expands across the country.

Outside of NBA athletes, other sports celebrities and brands have also been touting ventures in the cannabis arena of late. Mike Tyson, for example, re-entered the industry with Tyson 2.0, the successor to his former Tyson Ranch brand, with the first products launching in Columbia Care dispensaries and other retail locations before the end of the year. And the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) paired with start-up Audacious; unlike the other initiatives listed here, it went the more traditional sports route with a line of topical CBD pain-relief and recovery products under the Wreck Relief brand. Audacious also became the official CBD of the PBR.

A heads-up that Raugust Communications’ monthly newsletter comes out next Tuesday, November 16, 2021. The Licensing Topic of the Month will focus on the growing number of ways retail brands have been partnering with each other of late, while the Datapoint research spotlight will focus on the eyewear market. If you do not yet subscribe to this free publication, you can do so here.

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