The NBA and cannabis are making amends. The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced a new collective bargaining agreement on April 1st and it wasn’t an April Fools Day joke! Sources familiar with the negotiations have reported that this agreement includes an end to the prohibition of cannabis for their athletes in a variety of ways. Most importantly, NBA players can now promote and invest in regulated cannabis companies and will no longer be tested for the substance. This article will explore the implications that this has for marketing, advertising and branding in the cannabis industry.

The Benefits of Allowing NBA Players to Promote Cannabis Products

Mainstream acceptance and legalization

The endorsement of cannabis products by NBA players would increase the visibility and credibility of cannabis products. As professional athletes, NBA players are considered role models and influencers, especially among young people. Their endorsement of cannabis products could help to reduce the stigma associated with cannabis use and promote it as a legitimate and acceptable form of recreation or medication. As professional athletes and celebrities, NBA players have a significant influence on public opinion, and their endorsement of cannabis products could help to shift public opinion of cannabis use. This could lead to changes in cannabis legislation, making it easier for cannabis companies to operate and market their products. Furthermore, the NBA making this policy change may open the doors for other professional sports leagues to do the same.

Increased Sales

Potentially the most obvious benefit for the industry, the endorsement of cannabis products by NBA players would likely lead to increased sales of cannabis products. The NBA has a large fan base, and the endorsement of cannabis products by NBA players could create a new and lucrative market for cannabis companies. Fans of NBA players would be more likely to try out cannabis products that are endorsed by their favorite athletes, which could lead to increased sales and revenue for cannabis companies. It’s clear there is already a crossover between NBA fans and cannabis users, as demonstrated by the cannabis-inspired brands, products and marketing campaigns found later in this article.

Dynamic and Impactful Marketing Campaigns

Thirdly, the endorsement of cannabis products by NBA players would allow for exciting, enticing and impactful marketing campaigns. It will be interesting to watch which brands are able to align with which players, creating a new and exciting marketing dynamic within the cannabis industry. By associating cannabis with non-cannabis related activities (like basketball) and celebrities (like NBA players), weed brands can create more meaningful, deep connections with new and existing consumers. Cannabis brands will likely reap the benefits of celebrity and sports-related marketing, just as numerous other CPG brands in other categories have.

Basketball-Inspired Cannabis Brands, Products and Marketing Campaigns

Al Harrington, Allen Iverson and Viola

Viola is a California-based cannabis brand founded by Al Harrington, a former NBA player with a 16-year professional career including playing for the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and Denver Nuggets. Viola products are available in over 3 legal states and in Canada through a partnership with Avicanna (the company that recently received all of Shoppers Drug Mart’s displaced medical cannabis patients). Additionally, Al Harrington teamed up with NBA Hall-Of-Famer Allen Iverson for the launch of the “Iverson” line of cannabis products to the legal market.

Gary Payton and Cookies

Gary Payton, a cross of The Y x Snowman bred by Cookies and Powerzzzup Genetics, has become one of the most popular strains in California’s cannabis market. This cultivar is named after NBA Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton, who has openly promoted and endorsed the strain and Cookies brand. The Cookies fam is also responsible for breeding Gelato 33 which is often called “Larry Bird”, in reference to the Hall-of-Famer basketball player who famously wore the number 33.

Cookies Cannabis

Chris Webber and Players Only

NBA Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Chris Webber launched a luxury cannabis brand known as Players Only in 2022. The brand is exclusively available at select Gage and Cookies dispensaries throughout Michigan. Players Only offers flower strains with names like “Time Out”, vape cartridges, pre-rolls and sports recovery and performance products. In March 2022, TerrAscend secured exclusive retail rights for Players Only products in Michigan through the acquisition of Gage Growth Corp. The brand has also secured exclusive rights deals with a number of high-profile celebrities including Quavo, Raekwon, Royce 5′ 9″, Matt Barnes, Jason Williams and more.

Players Only Cannabis

March Madness and Cannabis Brands

Cannabis brands and retailers are often known to play off of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. One example of this is Weedmaps’ “Strain Madness”, a yearly competition that pits the most popular cannabis cultivars together to determine a champion. Retailers and brands use this formula to engage their audience and have them vote for the best products they offer.

Weedmaps Strain Madness

The Future of Basketball and Cannabis Marketing

The NBA has opened the doors for cannabis brands and marketers to begin working with their players. This should have long-lasting implications on the cannabis industry and will likely encourage more current and former players to launch their own brands and strains in the regulated space. Hopefully, this also encourages organizations like the NFL, the MLB and the NHL to soften their policies on cannabis and allow the endorsement and promotion of cannabis products. The future seems bright for cannabis-loving marketers, brands, NBA players and fans.

Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by ADCANN

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury is the founder and head editor of ADCANN. With roots in the industry since 2016, Colin has lead marketing initiatives at some of the world’s largest cannabis media companies, retailers and producers. His work has been published in a variety of digital and print publications and he continues to be the primary content creator for ADCANN. Colin prides himself on breaking stories and exploring lesser-known, niche topics related to cannabis marketing.