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Major League Baseball Allows Endorsements By CBD Companies

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

June 28, 2022

Three official major league baseballs lined up at a baseball game

Lesly Juarez via Unsplash

Major League Baseball announced last week that teams are now free to make sponsorship agreements with

companies, including deals that could put cannabis company logos on player jerseys. 

During a conference call on June 21, MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden told team marketing representatives that cannabidiol products are now an “approved category” for sponsorships, provided they have been certified to be free of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC by the independent analytical lab services organization NSF International. So far, SuperWater from the hemp company Adapt Brands is the only company to receive the NSF’s Certified for Sport certification.

Industry experts are unsure how much a CBD endorsement deal would bring MLB teams. But

estimates that total CBD sales worldwide totaled $4.9 billion in 2021, with projections for a market worth more than $47 billion annually by 2028.

“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,”

, according to a report from Sports Business Journal. “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) are in 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,” Garden added. “The last few companies that came to see us about this, the process of NSF certification was embraced. That gave us a comfort level to be able to move forward.”

MLB Jersey Patch Deal Negotiations Now Open

MLB has opened negotiations for team and league jersey patch sponsorships for the 2023 baseball season, the first year the league has permitted such advertising. With CBD now an approved category, hemp companies will be open to inking such deals with teams throughout the league. 

“We are open-minded to doing a patch deal here, depending on the brand and what that brand represents,” said Garden. “It has to have a brand that represents sports.”

Major League Baseball’s embrace of CBD sponsorships bucks the trend followed by most major sports leagues to distance themselves from cannabis brands, chiefly because of the pervasive stigma associated with marijuana. Notable exceptions include the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is currently in the midst of its second sponsorship deal with a CBD company. And earlier this year, NASCAR’s Richard Childress Racing reached the auto racing series’ first CBD sponsorship deal with the hemp company 3Chi. All other major leagues have banned sponsorships with CBD brands. 

Grant Norris Jones, the vice president of global partnerships for the UFC, said at the Sports Business Journal’s Brand Innovation Summit in Chicago last week that CBD products are safer than other drugs commonly given to athletes.

“It’s a better alternative to addictive products, like

killers, opioids, and sleeping aids,” said Jones. “The big problem has been the different standards and practices by our various broadcast partners when it comes to CBDs.”

Former NBA star Kevin Garnett, who spoke during a CBD panel discussion at the sports branding conference, estimated that up to 80 percent of the professional basketball league’s players use CBD products.

“With their emergence and where CBDs are going, not only are you going to see a deal (in the NBA), you are going to see sponsorships on the jerseys,” he said. “You are going to see CBD products signing players, both women and men.”

CBD advocates hope that sponsorship deals with sports teams can help educate the public on the benefits of hemp CBD and separate the cannabinoid from negative views associated with marijuana.

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

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