An Opportunity for Retailers: NFL Launching into Cannabis Research

For dispensaries and cannabis retailers seeking to broaden their CBD marketing and advertising target audience, have you considered CBD in sports medicine?

For the last 50 years, conversations about cannabis in professional sports only went one way. Sports leagues and their governing bodies considered cannabis a prohibited substance, largely qualifying it as a performance-enhancing one. Players were penalized for positive tests, no matter their reason for use.

But this restrictive stance in sports is evolving. As the rest of society begins to accept cannabis as medicine and adult legalization spreads, sports leagues are also opening up. The UFC, NBA, and NHL are all relaxing their regulations around players using cannabis. 

Now, the NFL is making a power play in the world of cannabis for sports medicine. 

NFL Funding Cannabis Research

On June 8th, 2021, the NFL and the NFL Players Association shook the sports world by announcing that they would be funding cannabis research. 

Specifically targeting the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoids for pain relief, the NFL and Players Association have pledged $1 million to fund upwards of five pilot studies. As per the press release, this funding aims to investigate:

  1. Effects of cannabinoid-based pain therapy for elite football players
  2. Effects of alternative ("non-pharmacologic") treatments for pain in elite football players
  3. Effects of cannabis and/or cannabinoid therapy on athletic performance in elite football players

Part of the driver behind this new research project is the NFL's attempt to move away from opioid therapy for injury, pain management, and post-surgery treatment. 

Unsurprisingly, NFL players are at high risk of injury due to their hard-hitting profession. According to one analysis from Sportivo, injury rates from the 2020/2021 season were 14 percent higher than the average from the previous decade. Current treatment protocols typically include opioid prescriptions for pain management. 

A 2012 paper reported that of more than 600 retired players surveyed, "over half (52%) used opioids during their NFL career with 71% reporting misuse."

A newer study from the University of Florida surveyed 90 former players. Of those prescribed opioids in 2010, more than 50 percent were still on them. More problematically, more than 60 percent reported experiencing depression within the week before the study interview

A move away from opioids and a quest for better pain management are some of the many reasons why the NFL is getting into cannabis research. 

The selected research projects are to be announced in late 2021, and the results will undoubtedly change the trajectory of cannabis in sports medicine. 

Cannabis in Sports: A CBD marketing and advertising Opportunity

The majority of Americans have access to cannabis in some capacity, and a full 91 percent believe the plant should be federally legal (in some form). US cannabis sales are set to reach $42 billion in 2026, with CBD sales hitting $16 billion by 2026. 

With professional sports leagues now getting involved, this is a CBD marketing and advertising opportunity for dispensaries and retailers alike.

The NFL's recent announcement to study cannabis for sports medicine will serve to legitimize this sector further. This will build on market trends that highlight cannabis as an alternative in sports medicine and as a workout supplement. 

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD have demonstrated pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and other useful properties — all of which could be beneficial for sports and physical activity. Cannabis and CBD brands are already banking on it (hence the CBD marketing and advertising you've likely already witnessed).

Professional athletes, including several retired NFL stars, are touting the benefits of CBD and other cannabis products. As per Frontier of Sports, Rob Gronkowski, Baker Mayfield, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, and Marshawn Lynch have all publicly endorsed CBD or cannabis brands in the last few years. The story is the same in other professional sports leagues. 

Cannabis and CBD brands are working with sports influencers to highlight their products — and it's working.

As dispensaries and retailers seek to broaden their audience, they would do well to explore cannabis and CBD products backed by athletes and directed at an active consumer. 

There are also hundreds of topicals, edibles, and infused drinks taking a sports-oriented angle. For example, pre-workout drinks with CBD, post-workout recovery with THC, and many other formulations are in hot demand. 

NFL To Pave the Way for CBD and Cannabis in Sports Medicine

In recent months, the NFL has been getting significant attention for it's new policies and projects. Although it's mostly been negative for the leagues new policies against unvaccinated players, its announcement about cannabis research has been largely positively received.

The NFL research project won't get laid out until the end of 2021, and the results from the studies are likely years off, it still represents a dramatic change for cannabis in sports. Finally, at least one professional sports league is paying attention to the possible benefits of this plant — instead of demonizing it.

Retailers and cannabis brands would do well to capitalize on this positive shift by baking sports-focused angles into their CBD marketing and advertising strategy. 

Marketing trends have long moved away from a focus on the stoner looking to get high. These days, cannabis is a wellness product targeting a health-focused demographic. 

How can you capitalize on this growing trend? Wunderworx helps you drive eCommerce sales or in-store purchases with location-based technology to better understand specific demographics. 

Using our proprietary data-driven tech, we build brand awareness within the health-conscious cannabis consumer. When they think of CBD for sports, we can make sure it's your brand and products that come to mind.

Interested In Learning More?

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