One of the more important lessons of sponsorship marketing is that the best outcome is often achieved if there is logical match between the celebrity and the sponsoring (cannabis) brand.
It was not that long ago that many celebrities might have been very discreet about any use or investment in the cannabis space, but those days are long gone. Celebrities now feel more comfortable to sponsor, invest, promote, or even lobby, with less fear of it having a negative impact on their career. Especially in the US, where regulations with regards to sponsorship marketing are less restrictive than in Canada, where sponsorship was all but banned once legalization came into place in October 2018 (although it was ok in the period just prior to legalization).
As the scope and scale of the cannabis industry continues to grow, it offers celebrities and brands a diverse set of marketing opportunities. Below is a partial list of celebrities already associated with the category and illustrates some of the ways they are involved, from investing to growing.
- Snoop Dogg – started company “Leafs by Snoop” with Canadian-based Tweed/Canopy Growth
- Whoopi Goldberg – has a line of cannabis infused products called “Whoopi & Maya”
- Willie Nelson – launched “Willie’s Reserve” cannabis company in 2015
- Gene Simmons – invested $10 million in Invictus – a Canadian based cannabis grower
A recent article in Forbes noted how these celebrities can also “quickly convey to consumers an idea of what the cannabis brand stands for”. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, is associating her Goop lifestyle publication with MedMen dispensaries. Willie Nelson, on the other hand, has one of the top-selling flower lines with the aforementioned Willie’s Reserve, “for people who still like to roll their own joints.”
Different jurisdictions have different marketing rules in place (or in development) that will likely limit how much we see of these celebrities in traditional brand marketing formats, but the win-win link between celebrities and cannabis is already well established.
Some more celebrities who have sponsored, invested in, promoted, or who have supported cannabis-related legislation:
- Cliff Robinson – former NBA player has a cannabis product line called “Uncle Spliffy”
- Jim Belushi – owns a 90-acre cannabis farm in Oregon
- Martha Stewart – well publicized partnership with Canopy Growth
- Joe Montana – investor in Caliva, a California based cannabis consumer products company
- Richard Branson – supports the Global Commission on Drug Policy that works towards countries decriminalizing marijuana
- Patrick Stewart – investor and board member of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies
- Jimmy Buffett – has licensed his Coral Reefer brand name to a line of cannabis products
- Mike Tyson – owns the 40 acre “Tyson Ranch” and will grow cannabis on 20 of those acres
- Melissa Etheridge – cannabis activist since using the drug to treat side effects of chemo
- Tommy Chong, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Harrelson, Wiz Khalifa, Trailer Park Boys, Seth Rogan, The Tragically Hip and more.
The celebrity reaps benefits like cash and/or in-kind considerations and name awareness. The brand benefits from an increase in brand recognition and brand affinity., and they can harness the commercial potential associated with the celebrity. Both parties benefit when cannabis sponsorship is done right.