Over the past 12 months a growing number of sports teams and leagues have teamed up with CBD brands, specialized in cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid. In this analysis, we will talk about key trends, and sports organizations partnering with CBD brands.

So what are the key trends impacting the CBD market today?

  1. New regulation towards CBD from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In September 2018, the WADA removed CBD from its Prohibited Substances List. It became effective January 1, 2018. The change in policy not only opened up opportunities for athletes in need of safe pain management treatments but for cannabis companies as well. In addition, as shown in the picture below, natural cannabinoids (e.g. cannabis, hashish, marijuana) as well as synthetic cannabinoids, remain prohibited by the WADA.

  1. The CBD market is booming: The market for CBD in sports medicine is still emerging, so we don’t have any definitive numbers on the projected size of this sector. However, the total global CBD market is expected to hit $22B by 2022 while the broader medical cannabis market is forecast to reach an estimated $55.8B by 2025.
  2. CBD awareness is growing: A recent survey says 85% of the people are aware of CBD, and one of the five surveyed have tried or are currently using CBD products. Surprisingly, 60% of consumers are okay with paying more for a CBD infused or a specialty product. As shown in the graphs below, 26% of Americans have tried CBD at least once in the past two years, and 40% of CBD users are between 18 and 29 years old.

  1. CBD oil and tinctures are the most used types of CBD products: Nowadays CBD is being sold in pill form, oils, tinctures, CBD infused edibles, creams, lotions, and even in bottled water, coffee, beer, and cosmetics. As shown in the graph below, CBD oil and tinctures are the most used types of CBD products today, as it is being used by 44% of consumers, Vs 26% for CBD infused topicals (e.g. lotions, salves, creams, or transdermal patches) which are applied on the skin for relief on the surface or even deeper in muscle tissue.

Major sports organizations teaming up with CBD brands

Due to the change in regulation from the WADA towards CBD, a growing number of sports organizations have started to team up with CBD brands.

Currently, the PGA and pro tennis allow players to use CBD, but it remains prohibited in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

In addition, the UFC teamed up with Aurora Cannabis on a CBD study in UFC fighters to find out if the cannabis compound CBD can treat the aches and pains that come hand in hand with their violent sport.

About 30 UFC athletes have expressed interest in volunteering for the study, a UFC spokesperson told CNN Business.

“Collaborating with Aurora is the best way to educate ourselves and our fighters about the impact of CBD on MMA athletes and our sport,” Dr. Duncan French, UFC’s vice president of performance, said in a statement. “We want to apply science and see where it leads us. Ideally, these studies will give us the clarity we need to determine the effectiveness of hemp-derived CBD on athlete health and injury recovery.”

Picture: UFC, Aurora

CBD is also gaining traction in the world of American Football. In fact, in the NFL, organizations of current and former athletes, including cannabis activist group Athletes For CARE and the National Football League Players Association, the union that represents NFL players, have called for leagues to allow cannabis-based alternatives to addictive painkillers. In early 2019, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to explore studying the pain management effects of cannabis.

As part of the pain management initiative, a Joint Pain Management Committee, which includes medical experts appointed by the NFL and union, was formed to create uniform practices and policies for clubs regarding the pain management and use of prescription medications in addition to research regarding alternative methods. Each NFL team must appoint a Pain Management Specialist. The Committee will receive reports from a newly-formed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which will monitor all prescriptions issued to players by club doctors and unaffiliated physicians.

“Very historic and proud day for league and NFLPA to partner together on this,” Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, told NFL.com.

The Joint Pain Management Committee will “conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.” Sills told NFL.com that committee’s research will include cannabis, cannabinoids and CBD, but the goal is “much broader and bigger than (marijuana).”

Picture: NFL

Last month, the World Surf League (WSL) also announced that cbdMD will be the official sponsor of the 2019/2020 Jaws Big Wave Championships.

WSL confirmed that the partnership with cbdMD is the biggest deal ever made in the history of professional big wave surfing.

“Performance and recovery are key to surfing, especially big wave surfing, with the sport’s unique challenges. This partnership with a CBD category leader will help inform consumers of CBD’s benefits.”, said WSL officials.

The partnership between WSL and the hemp-derived CBD oil products company marks a historical milestone. It is the first time a consumer CBD brand enters the professional surfing circuit as a sponsor.

These are just some of the many examples of sports organizations teaming up with CBD brands.

Athletes also promoting CBD brands

CBD has also garnered several star advocates. Enthusiasts like former New York Giants receiver Tiki Barber, former Boston Celtic Paul Pierce, and recently retired New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski all have their own CBD companies that promote the substance as a powerful healing tool that can manage pain, and in Pierce’s case, help with crippling anxiety.

Picture: Rob Gronkowski, CBDMEDIC

Four-time NBA champion John Salley became the vice president of marketing for Leading Edge Pharmaceuticals and will soon launch his own premium cannabis business, Deuces 22. Retired NBA star Jamal Mashburn joined the board of cannabis health and wellness company Revolution Global as an advisor, and the e-commerce marijuana delivery platform, Dutchie, received capital from Thirty Five Ventures, an investment firm co-founded by NBA star Kevin Durant.

In cannabis-focused gyms, matching the right product to the athlete is an important focus. It’s done in Power Plant Fitness gyms, which were founded by former NFL player Ricky Williams and founder of the 420 Games, Jim Alpine. In addition, it’s an important part of Williams’ and Alpine’s Cannathlete program and Cannathlete product line.

Other athletes getting into the CBD industry include NFL legend Joe Montana who invested in Caliva; Seibo Shen, a jiu-jitsu fighter who founded VapeXhale; Cliff Robinson of the NBA with his brand, Uncle Cliffy; the NBA’s Al Harrington with his company, Viola Extracts; former NFL Pro Bowl player Lofa Tatupu with his ZoneIn CBD startup; and former NFL player Kyle Turley who has a product line called Neuro XPF.

In addition, the number of professional athletes advocating CBD and accepting brand ambassador roles and sponsorships from cannabis brands is growing. Six-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Amy Van Dyken has a partnership with the hemp lifestyle network Kannaway. Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist, two time Women’s World Cup champion, and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year is sponsored by CBD-sports recovery products company Mendi, and ultramarathoner Avery Collins is sponsored by The Farm Marijuana Dispensary.

Ultimately, athletes’ advocacy has raised the drug’s profile and helped kick off a national conversation.

So how can CBD help athletes? What do we know about the impact of CBD on sports performance or pain management?

When it comes to sports and CBD, there haven’t been enough studies to make a no-doubt statement that CBD for athletes is beneficial for performance.

However, here is what we know about CBD and what it can do for athletes:

Bottom line: The CBD market is booming and CBD can help address the growing issues around pain management among athletes. We expect to see more sports organizations, teams and athletes teaming up with CBD brands in the coming years. In addition, we also expect CBD to continue to be part of a national debate and often misunderstood.