Although The Smiths frontman Johnny Marr once said America’s pastime was only worthwhile if cannabis was involved, many baseball fans don’t agree. According to a recent poll, baseball fans were the least likely to consume marijuana among all major sports. Fans of eSports, UFC, and Formula 1 Racing had a far friendlier relationship with cannabis.
A recent Morning Consult poll surveyed between 252 and 1,269 self-identified fans of multiple major sports and how often they consumed vices, such as tobacco and cannabis. Although multiple sports leagues prohibit cannabis use and promotion, the poll highlights a growing branding opportunity for professional athletes involving marijuana and CBD products.
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About 35% of eSports and UFC fans regularly smoke or ingest marijuana. Racing fans also gravitated to cannabis: at least 30% of F1 and MotoGP fans were normal users. Fans of America’s Big Four sports leagues — NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL — were less cannabis friendly than fans of most other sports.
Sport organizations won’t allow players to sign sponsorship deals with marijuana companies, although professional athletes can freely do so with beer and spirit companies. But leagues have recently opened to the use and promotion of CBD among players. Big name golfers like Bubba Watson, Charley Hoffman, Scott Piercy, and Lucas Glover have signed CBD-related sponsorships without penalty.
It’s simple to understand what motivates players to sign such deals—the Untied States CBD marketplace generated $4.1 billion in sales last year, cannabis research firm Brighfield Group reports. Only racing athletes join professional golfers with permission to promote CBD products. However, Sports Business Journal reported in July the MLS could soon allow teams to sign CBD company sponsorships.
A recent NFL analysis concluded that while “CBD is a promising compound […] the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence.” That lack of evidence appears the main conflict traditional sports leagues have in associating with cannabis or CBD products. Added NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “When we change our policy we have to be really careful because we’re clearly sending a message to young people.”
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While a significant portion of most fanbases use cannabis, the leagues would rather leave that possible sponsorship money behind at the moment.
“As much as I would love to sell as many categories and allow our clubs to sell as many categories to monetize, you start getting into health and well-being,” a top sponsorship executive at a major U.S. sports league told Morning Consult. “There’s a whole other part of the organization, including doctors, that look into the effects of that product. And so at this point, we are looking into it, but there’s nothing imminent.”