Can CBD heal MMA fighters?

CBD is on its way to being legal in all 50 states, but enforcement and regulations vary widely by region.

Recently cbdMD announced a branding partnership with Bellator Events, which broadcasts mixed martial arts (MMA) fights via the Paramount and DAZN networks to over one billion MMA fans in over 160 countries. According to cbdMD, the agreement gives the company branding rights inside the Bellator fight cage. The potential impact for cbdMD and the cannabis industry is huge, especially since cbdMD promises to sell, “the absolute purest CBD available”. Their ability to back up that claim really matters right now because consumers are still trying to figure out if CBD actually works.

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If cbdMD’s product lives up to the company’s purity claims, and if it’s marketing team can do an effective job of highlighting the difference between good and poor-quality CBD, everyone wins — the consumer, the MMA fans, the CBD industry, and cbdMD itself. If the company fails on either end, this effort becomes one of those epic ‘meh’ moments common to emerging industries looking to make a splash in crowded waters.

Perhaps I could lend cbdMD a hand in its MMA marketing efforts? I know a bit about MMA’s audience and a lot about marketing cannabis to senior citizens. Yes, you heard me right, senior citizens.

The MMA and seniors

You might have naturally assumed that the MMA’s audience skewed towards young males, but seniors actually make up its fastest-growing audience, as they do in all televised sports. According to a report issued by Nielsen Sports, MMA is the world’s third most popular sport, with over 450 million fans worldwide. The average age for UFC (an MMA organization) viewership is currently 49 years old, a change of over 15 years since 2007.  As the data also points out, MMA and extreme sports have seen a more drastic change in average viewer age than any other televised sports, and by a wide margin.

What do I mean by seniors? While you will never get a member of Gen X to admit that they are a senior citizen, the law, AARP, the United States Tennis Association and retail marketers everywhere say otherwise. Those over 50 years of age are technically “seniors”, whether they like it or not (and most do not). Though I would argue that this new senior class is unlike generations past in that they still play really, really hard.

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They still ski ridiculously steep slopes. They still surf big waves. They catch air out of the bowl at the skatepark. And they do all of this for fun!

They also hurt afterward in ways they never did back in the ’90s when their bodies were younger. Cliff jumps on skis just don’t go down like they used to, nor do wipeouts on cement. These Gen Xers are often quietly dealing with chronic pain and likely curious about CBD. However, if they didn’t partake in the ‘weed thing’ in their younger days, what is going to motivate them to try CBD instead of more reliable ibuprofen, or even opiates?

Marketing CBD to Spicoli

Gex X responds to ‘in-yo-face’ marketing, backed by authentic, well-made products. And what’s more ‘in-yo-face’ than the MMA? Can you imagine the brainstorm sessions going on at cbdMD HQ? “Our sales could skyrocket if the company engages generation X appropriately!”

But here’s the problem. Authenticity also matters to Gen X.  If cbdMD can’t live up to its claims of product purity and, at the same time, can’t educate this audience that what it sells is 100 percent different from the CBD for sale at their local gas station, then everyone loses, especially the consumer.

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CBD’s snake oil problem

What we are witnessing today is a market infiltration of poor quality CBD oils and CBD-infused products, often coming from China, which are then infused into third-party products in the United States and branded as “homegrown”. It’s a trend that CBD manufacturers in both the United States and Canada need to get a hold on, and quickly. According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, China currently owns over half of the world’s cannabis patents, so the forecast is cloudy at best. This deal could potentially impact that trend if executed properly.

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In addition to mass-produced, poor-quality CBD products coming from China and other countries, the domestic CBD industry is also now facing an influx of fake, or synthetic CBD products, making bogus claims. Without FDA regulation, this can lead to frightening results. Recently 52 people in Utah were sickened by synthetic CBD oil.

The onus is on us

The spotlight may be on cbdMD this week, but I think the responsibility rests with all of us who sell or produce CBD-infused products to educate MMA’s massive audience on exactly what they are buying, good and bad. The regulations may differ from state to state, but the moral of the story is consistent: Go out of your way to educate your customers about good and bad CBD, and if you are a gas station or mini-mart selling synthetic CBD, be warned. Gen X’ers don’t forget or forgive that easily.

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Maryam Mirnateghi