Officials with Major League Baseball (MLB) recently announced they would permit league-approved CBD brands to sponsor teams starting next year. As first reported by Sports Business Journal, the news came during a conference call with team marketing personnel.
“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,” MLB Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden said.
Prior to now, CBD companies were all but invisible in North American professional sports with the exception of UFC and Major League Soccer. However, the MLB will be the most high-profile organization yet to welcome hemp companies on player jerseys and television airtime for advertisements featuring their products.
The league removed cannabis from its banned substance list for players in 2019 but hesitated to engage with the plant directly until now.
How to Advertise CBD with Major League Baseball (MLB)
That’s not to say just any CBD brand is going to make its way to the big leagues.
Companies hoping to partner with MLB teams must have their products Certified for Sport by the National Sanitation Foundation. The rigorous process includes a multi-step testing regimen requiring finished goods to undergo a battery of tests and formula reviews with each individual ingredient under scrutiny. Products must be manufactured in GMP-compliant facilities and may not contain any THC, even trace amounts. Certification can take several months and costs upward of $15,000 per SKU.
At this time, only a small handful of CBD companies are in the process of certification, according to Garden. Ancillary companies would not fall into the CBD category as far as the MLB is concerned, although it is unclear if non-plant touching businesses could be eligible in the future.
Charlotte’s Web, one of the nation’s largest providers of hemp-based products, is hoping to be among the first brands to engage with an MLB team.
“CBD sponsorships for professional sports are a signal that league leadership is listening to the needs of their players and their fans,” said Jacques Tortoroli, CEO of Charlotte’s Web.
The company recently cemented a partnership with the Angel City Football Club, a women’s pro soccer team, and has an existing relationship with retired NFL superstar Rob Gronkowski, whose Abacus hemp brand was acquired by Charlotte’s Web in 2020.
“We believe athletes in all sports understand this space,” Tortoroli added. “Many use CBD already, helping to support various aspects of wellness for overall performance, like managing everyday stress, exercise-induced inflammation, healthy sleep cycles, and more.”
Under the new regulation, CBD companies could have their logos featured on jersey patches similar to the NBA’s recent decision to permit sponsor logos on player uniforms. They would also be permitted to air TV ads during baseball games, subject to network approval. All sponsorships would also need to be approved by the commissioner’s office.
“Our fans are very much the kind of customers they [CBD brands] are looking for, and we like being first,” Garden added.
In related news, former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz recently announced the launch of his own brand dubbed Papi Cannabis. The first-ballot Hall of Famer, who has been a proponent of the plant for recovery and relaxation, partnered with Massachusetts-based Rev Clinics to release the line, starting with pre-rolled blunts known as Sweet Sluggers.
“Once I embraced the flow of the flower everything changed,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Cannabis has helped me relax, sleep better, manage stress, and heal physically after a lifetime of playing ball, and I look forward to sharing Papi Cannabis and my personal journey to help people understand its benefits.”