Market Analysis – Insight & Trends | Sports & Fitness
The promise of CBD products in athletics is enormous, and in the United Kingdom, CBD products are already legal. Rugby is one sport that is leading the way in CBD adoption among players.
Rugby players are subject to a litany of injuries and many players suffer from shortened careers due to a build-up of pain and injury. With chronic pain and serious risk to bodily harm, rugby players have to be on their toes about taking care of their body. One way in which rugby players are looking to protect their body against the harsh reality of the sport is CBD oils and other CBD products.
Following the World Anti-Doping Authority’s (WADA) decision to remove CBD from its banned substance list in early 2018 British rugby players have been regularly using CBD products and multiple British rugby unions and associations have come out in support of their players using the substance.
Big names in British rugby have also recognised the commercial potential.
The Saracens locks George Kruis and Dominic Day were so taken with it that they launched their own business, fourfivecbd. It was Day who first discovered it, when he was struggling to recover from an operation to remove torn cartilage from his right knee. “I was in that head space where I was willing to try anything that could help,” he recalled in a recent interview with the Guardian, “and I stumbled across the article online about how Wada had just taken CBD oil off the banned list, and I thought: ‘Shall I give this a go?’” He ended up buying a bottle of it from a vape shop and then taking a CBD supplement every morning “much like someone else would use a multivitamin”.
“For six months we held off giving it to any professional athletes because we wanted to make sure all our products had been laboratory tested to ensure there was no cross-contamination in them.” continues Day. “Now we have that certification, we’ve got around 400 professional athletes using it from a range of sports: rugby union and league, boxing, MMA, track and field, diving, and swimming.”
Kruis and Day are not the only sport players to move from personal CBD use to commercialisation. Impact Sports is a UK-based CBD brand that launched at the end of 2019, as a result of collaboration between CBD biotech company CiiTECH and international rugby stars James Haskell and Ben Franks.
“We wanted to create a unique line of products specifically formulated for athletes and workout recovery,” says founder of CiiTECH Clifton Flack. “Building on the CiiTECH passion for cannabinoid research, together with our partners James and Ben we’ve dedicated countless hours examining the potential role of CBD in sports and fitness.”
Having been at the top of the professional game for the past 15 years, rugby legends Ben Franks and James Haskell recently opened up about their personal use of CBD to support gruelling day-to-day training regimens. Their goal in partnering with CiiTECH and Impactsports.uk was to offer a range of recovery-oriented, fitness-specific CBD formulas to the general public. The company offers a range of CBD hemp oils and balms, marketed as supplements to sports and fitness regimes.
CiiTECH has played a key role in the development and commercialisation of cannabinoid products for the global market, and was instrumental in helping develop the UK-leading Provacan label. At the launch of Impact the researchers claimed to have developed the ‘perfect formula’ for exercise and fitness-related recovery.
“Certainly not all CBD products are made with the same end-user intent,” says Flack. “Due to their inclusionary phytochemical hemp content, Impact CBD products are geared more towards quicker recovery times and direct application to muscle and joint areas.”
Rugby’s adoption of CBD use among players is similar to changing acceptance and policy in other major sports around the world.
In the US, Major League Baseball (MLB) recently made similar changes to the sport’s drug policies, allowing CBD use among players for the forthcoming 2020 season. Previously, the sport’s governing body had decided to not follow WADA’s changes to the banned substances list. However, a number of high-profile player deaths resulting from opioid abuse seem to have had an influence in changing the MLB’s policy on the matter. There is a growing push within the sport to help players move away from opioids as a form of pain management and CBD is becoming an option to help with this process.
As in Rugby, a number of players in the MLB have come out in support of using CBD as a faster route to recovery. The wider acceptance of use by the MLB has been welcomed in the US by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).
Similar, moves are underway in other international sports including, American football, golf, basketball, swimming, and a number of others.
The move by league organisers and sports governing bodies to accept CBD use among professional athletes also opens new opportunities for CBD sports-based brands to link up with teams in sponsorship and commercial deals, developing a new level of consumer awareness among sports fans.
In the UK, last year’s sponsorship deal announcement between Birmingham City Football club and Green Monkey CBD was one of the first deals of this nature. As part of the year-long agreement, the Club is working on a series of engagement events with Green Monkey CBD in order to co-promote the brand’s range. Green Monkey CBD have, in turn, gained access to the Club’s advertising outlets to further spread their message.
At the announcement of the agreement Serge Davies, CEO of Green Monkey CBD, explained the benefits of the tie-in with such a well-known football team as Blues by commenting: “With a big club, with a massive fan base right on our doorstep, it was a natural tie-in for us.”
“Football fans are changing and progressive clubs such as Birmingham City are realising that their fans are searching for different products when at the game.”
“What the Club have done in reinvigorating their fan base has been excellent and we wanted to be a part of that and introduce our brand to the fans. CBD is a growing market as people are becoming more concerned about their health and wellbeing and searching for something else.”
Ian Dutton, Chief Commercial Officer at Blues, said: “We are delighted to be one of the first sport clubs to partner with a CBD Drinks brand. As a Club we are always looking to be innovative and create industry firsts with our partnerships programme.”
Speaking of the commercial opportunities, Mr Davies added: “Of course it will be great to see fans drinking our cocktails and cans at the game but the bigger issue is spreading the word about CBD and educating people on what it is. Obviously we can’t make any medical claims but the 250ml drink is designed as an entry-level product to the market so people can try for themselves.”
Image source: CityAM