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Major League Baseball to Allow CBD Sponsorships

The MLB stated in a conference call on June 21 that CBD is now an “approved category” which means that teams are now allowed to sell CBD sponsorships as long as the brand has received an NSF certification (a verification that a product has no THC).

According to Sports Business JournalThe reason behind the changes was explained by Noah Garden, MLB Chief Revenue Officer. “We’ve been watching this category for a while and waiting for it to mature to the point where we can get comfortable with it,” said Garden. “We told the clubs if you want to do a deal in the CBD category, it will require two things: One is NSF certification—and none of them are there yet, although around three to five [brands]They are currently in the process. The other is to get approval from the commissioner’s office…Our fans are very much the kind of customers they are looking for, and we like being first. It’s a good opportunity for us and the clubs. NSF certification was welcomed by all the companies who came to us regarding this. That gave us a comfort level to be able to move forward.”

Analysts recently shared the news that CBD could bring in $4.9 billion to the world by 2022. This figure is projected to rise to $47 billion by 2028.

The MLB “patch program,” which began in March 2022, allows each team to feature a brand and logo on their team uniforms for on-field players. Motorola was the initial team to adopt this sponsorship. Garden suggested that CBD brands could be included in the patch deals. “We are open-minded to doing a patch deal here, depending on the brand and what that brand represents,” Garden said. “It has to have a brand that represents sports.” 

It’s a landmark milestone for CBD in the MLB, but the conversation spans most other sports organizations as well.

Kevin Garnett is a NBA player. Sports Business Journal last week following his attendance of the Brand Innovation Summit that was held in Chicago, Illinois on June 13-15, “I think with the emergence and where CBD is going, not only are you going to see a deal [in the NBA], you are going to start see the sponsorships on the jerseys.” Garnett continued, “You are going to start to see a more active role of CBD products actually signing players, both women and men. And then I think you’re going to see the education come out a little more because we’re all looking for it now. I think CBD is here, it’s a disruptor, it has disrupted pharma, as it should, and it’s a great, different solution. It is a great alternative to pharma, and I encourage people to get their own personal testimonials. It really does work.”

Grant Norris Jones (Vice President Global Partnerships, Ultimate Fighting Championship) spoke about CBD and how it benefits athletes. “It’s a better alternative to addictive products, like pain killers, opioids, and sleeping aids,” said Norris-Jones. “The big problem has been the different standards and practices by our various broadcast partners when it comes to CBDs…In the U.K., [UFC sponsor]Love Hemp can be purchased in stores like CVS and Walgreens. Here, their activations have to be outside of ESPN currently. So it’s been a lot of digital, social and a brand ambassador program with our athletes.”

Two years ago, the MLB made headlines for allowing athletes to smoke cannabis. Following the events of baseball player Tyler Skaggs who died of an opioid overdose, the organization announced in December 2019 that it would be removing cannabis from its list of “abused drugs” (but would still test for substances such as fentanyl and cocaine).

The MLB stated in March 2020, however that penalties could be imposed on players who appear to have been under the influence of marijuana at practices and games.

In October 2021, the NBA made history by not testing its athletes for marijuana during its 75th Season. This season began in October 2021. It ended May 2022.