Major League Baseball gives OK for CBD sponsorships

‘Landmark change for sports leagues,’ writes Sports Business Journal.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) organization and its 30 teams can now accept sponsorships from CBD companies, reports Sports Business Journal.

“League officials told team marketers in a conference call yesterday that CBDs are henceforth an ‘approved category’ as long as they are certified by testing organization NSF to not have psychoactive levels of THC,” Terry Lefton wrote for the magazine. (NSF started in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation and continues to lead in setting public health standards and certifications.)

“League officials told team marketers in a conference call yesterday that CBDs are henceforth an ‘approved category’ as long as they are certified by testing organization NSF to not have psychoactive levels of THC.”

— Terry Lefton for Sports Business Journal

The shift signals growing public acceptance of CBD use. It’s also a vote of confidence in the CBD industry itself.

The League’s chief revenue officer, Noah Garden, told Sports Business Journal they’d “been watching this category for a while and waiting for it to mature to the point where we can get comfortable with it. …”

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.”

The vast majority of pro sports leagues have thus far avoided sponsorships from CBD companies. Lefton called the MLB’s shift “a development likely to echo across the industry and open a new sponsorship category in pro sports.”

To that end, former pro basketball player Kevin Garnett recently estimated that more than 80 percent of NBA players are using CBD products for pain management and sleep.

“With their emergence and where CBDs are going, not only are you going to see a deal [in the NBA], but you’re going to see sponsorships on the jerseys,” he said. “You’re going to start to see CBD products 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. CBD is here. It’s a disruptor. … It’s a great, different solution.”

“You’re going to start to see CBD products 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. CBD is here. It’s a disruptor.”

— Kevin Garnett, Former Pro Basketball Player

Until now, the mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been the only pro sports organization to allow partnerships with CBD companies.

The UFC’s vice president of global partnerships, Grant Norris Jones, told Sports Business Journal that CBD is preferable to addictive pain killers but standards and practices vary widely when it comes to advertising. “So it’s been a lot of digital, social and a brand ambassador program with our athletes,” he said.

CBD’s acceptance by Major League Baseball will likely serve to further increase acceptance of hemp and cannabis in the public sphere.

“Some see sports marketing as a way to break through the consumer education barrier and get CBDs seen more as medicine — not an intoxicant — which would certainly lead to wider acceptance by retailers,” Lefton wrote.

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