As legalization continues to spread across the U.S., more and more celebrities are jumping on the cannabis train. In recent years we’ve seen actors, athletes, and rappers come clean about their cannabis use — whether recreationally or as an alternative to opioids. On top of that, other celebs have put their money into the industry, starting cannabis lines and opening dispensaries and lounges.
Perhaps the biggest way that celebrities are flexing their influence in cannabis, however, is through endorsements. By lending their name to cannabis brands, celebrities help them reach a larger audience than these companies could alone.
Let’s dive into the many ways celebrities are making their mark on the cannabis industry.
Traditional Cannabis Brands vs. Celebrity Brands
Data collected by Headset, a Seattle-based cannabis analytics company, revealed a huge difference in sales margin between traditional cannabis brands and those endorsed by celebrities in California. Brands like Cann, Mirayo, and Houseplant outsold the traditional ones by ratios as high as 30 – 1.
What’s the reason for this massive disparity? When celebrities lend their name to a brand, that brand attracts the attention of fans of the celebrity. Partnerships and other promotional events contribute further to meaningful consumer interaction, thus leading to increased purchases. Further research has shown that celebrity cannabis brands are usually more affordable than their traditional counterparts.
Drew Punjabi, the brand manager of 22Red, a cannabis brand in California, shed more light on these facts. He said that:
“…influence is king. Celebrities have that equity with their fans and followers…In an industry where physical in-person retail sales are still paramount, it’s a huge advantage to be able to pull hundreds of people to a dispensary for a meet-and-greet or event tied to product promotions or new drops.”
Celebrities That Have Influenced The Market
Many celebrities are using their face to promote cannabis brands, and their influence has favored its acceptance. Let’s take a look at some famous people that have impacted the industry.
We can’t speak of superstar cannabis advocates without mentioning Calvin Broadus, aka, Snoop Dogg. His influence in the industry can be traced back to the time his uncle introduced him to cannabis when he was much younger. Since then, cannabis has defined his rise from humble beginnings to stardom.
He started his brand, Leafs By Snoop in 2015. It is believed that Snoop convinced Charles Koch, a right-wing billionaire to support the legalization of cannabis. Snoop is also co-owner of one of the world’s largest marijuana grow initiatives, Canopy Growth.
This Hollywood star is one of the celebrities behind a cannabis brand called Cann — launched in 2019 by Luke Anderson and Jake Bullock. In only four years, the brand has grown exponentially, dominating the legal market in California. The brand’s strategy is to normalize cannabis by associating with celebrities who are not known to use it.
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Luke Anderson summarized Cann’s successful strategy saying:
“We thought if we could be the first cannabis brand to get a mainstream celebrity that does not have a public image that’s associated with cannabis, then we could change the conversation and normalize it in a really new and powerful way…We were able to paint a picture that this is something for everybody. It’s not just something for people who want to get really high.”
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is a successful rapper and a prolific businessman. He started his foray into the cannabis industry as the Chief Brand Strategist for cannabis company Caliva. He eventually took over the Chief Visionary Officer role before going on to launch his own cannabis company, Monogram.
Today, Caliva is the face of both brands, and his social and political views are positively affecting the industry. Monogram started a drug policy awareness campaign a few years ago. The campaign aimed at questioning the government’s contradictory position on the use of cannabis.
Celebrity Endorsement Is Not Enough
Although the influence that celebrities is indispensable, getting an endorsement won’t guarantee industry success. There are other things that a brand needs to put in place to maximize the effect of celebrity endorsements. These measures include:
Not Depending Solely On A Celebrity’s Influence
It is important to first build a functional business model BEFORE leveraging a famous person to augment its growth. Evan Nison, a cannabis public relations professional explains that: “You shouldn’t and couldn’t build a business around a celebrity name…You need a good solid company to start.”
Partner With The Right Celebrity
Cannabis business owners should properly research the celebrities they want to work with. They should partner with persons who match the personality of the brand so they can bond well with their consumers. Furthermore, they should work with people who use and believe in the product.
Consider Their Reputation
A celebrity’s reputation has a huge effect on any brand. You don’t want a negative effect on your product. It’s good practice to have a moral clause on your endorsement to mitigate a potentially scandalous situation. Dean Crutchfield, an international brand marketing specialist commented on this. He said, “You need to have a crisis management plan and a contingency plan in case something goes wrong.”
The use of cannabis was once tagged as dirty, but the tides are changing for the better. Celebrity endorsements are contributing to a greater acceptance of the cannabis industry. As more superstars get involved, there is hope of even greater adoption.
Give us your thoughts on celebrity’s place in the cannabis industry.
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