A few months ago I pondered if MLS might adjust its current stance on CBD and look to add it as a sponsorship category, leveraging the growth potential of a forecasted $20B industry by 2024. Turns out I was focused on the wrong league. Portland-based CBD brand, Social CBD, became the first hemp-related brand to partner with a professional women’s soccer team in the U.S. after a landmark deal with the Portland Thorns.
Social CBD is a wellness company that provides lab-tested CBD solutions and has a nationwide shelf presence at more than 10,000 retailers. While details on the partnership are slim, through their relationship with the Thorns, Social CBD is looking to lead the conversation in CBD and athlete relationships both and off the field. For Social CBD, the story of on-field stress and off-field recovery of a professional athletes’ day-to-day life presents a great marketing opportunity. For the Thorns, the opportunity to be the CBD flag bearers in professional soccer has to be of worthy consideration.
Rapinoe signs CBD deal of her own
In her first brand-related move after a successful 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe signed her own deal with a separate Portland-based CBD company, The Mendi Co. According to her twin sister, Rachael, who is also the CEO of the CBD startup, Megan has been using CBD for training and recovery for several years. The partnership allows the Rapinoes to provide their own approach to the future of the professional athlete and CBD relationship.
CBD and other professional sports teams and leagues
The Social CBD and Thorns deal marks an interesting development in the wellness products’ relationship with professional sports leagues, as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, WNBA – and MLS – all have regulations against the cannabinoid. Previous CBD forays in professional sport teams and leagues include the Big3 (the 3-on-3 basketball league founded by Ice Cube), as well as the Portland Pickles of the collegiate West Coast League. MMA and its fighters also have a healthy relationship with CBD companies, as do some IndyCar drivers (although they can’t actually use the products thanks to it being on IndyCar’s banned substance list).
Do cannabis products have a future in soccer?
Great question with an unknown answer. FIFA does not currently ban CBD, which is a huge hurdle that’s already been overcome. The World Anti-Doping Agency removed the cannabinoid derivative from the banned substance list and as a result, FIFA no longer bans CBD. At this point, it’s largely a matter of a league, like MLS, allowing players to use CBD or cannabinoid products. That decision hinges, at least somewhat, on CBD’s acceptance federally and medically as an anti-inflammatory among other health benefits. Beyond CBD, we have seen one cannibus-related partnership in soccer. Las Vegas Lights of USL Championship partnered with a marijuana dispensary in 2018 in a landmark, first-of-its-kind partnership in professional sports.
We were going to wait till 4:20 pm, but we were just too excited 😏
We are proud to announce our partnership with @NuwuCannabis!
The first professional sports team in the U.S. to partner with a marijuana dispensary.
ONLY. IN. VEGAS. pic.twitter.com/ItGhT7a4vn
— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) April 13, 2018
So, do cannabis products have a future in soccer? The answer is yes, as the seeds have already been planted. However, it remains to be seen how fruitful the cannabis industry can become for the sport thanks to current regulations. Given growth potential and momentum for CBD and marijuana in the near and distant future, it feels like it’s a question of when, not if.