Celebrity endorsements have long been used to drive consumer purchases. Now that marijuana is becoming widely legalized, several celebrity endorsed marijuana brands are on the market. Statistics show that star recognition pays off.
MJBiz Daily conducted a comparative analysis of celebrity endorsed marijuana brands and non-celebrity brands. Results found brands that are backed by celebrities, as well as those that offer celebrity advertising and events, tend to do better than other brands. What’s more, these brands tend to charge less than the average $23.14 per item other brands do.
What the Study is Showing About Celebrity Endorsed Marijuana Brands
The analysis compared sales for more than 20 celebrity endorsed marijuana brands and over 1300 traditional brands in the first three months of 2023. It showed that traditional brands generated an average of $26,591 in monthly sales. At least 9 of the celebrity brands generated higher income with five exceeding the $100,000 mark.
The Cann Story
Cann is one of the top celebrity endorsed marijuana brands outselling traditional cannabis brands 30 to 1. It is backed by brand ambassadors and investors such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebel Wilson, and former NBA player Baron Davis. It is known to bring in monthly sales of $751,760 in California alone.
The company has a unique business strategy. Instead of partnering with cannabis icons like Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogan, it went with celebrities that did not have a public image associated with cannabis.
“We were able to paint a picture that this is something for everybody. It’s not just something for people who want to get high,” said Cann co-founder Luke Anderson.
The brand also made a smart move by partnering with Imaginary Ventures early on. The New York venture capital firm has grown celebrity apparel brands like Good American and Skims both of which were co-founded by Kim and Khloe Kardashian.
Cheech & Chong’s Cannabis Co.
Cheech & Chong’s Cannabis Co. is one of the celebrity endorsed cannabis brands that take a different approach. The comedians are well known for their relationship with weed thanks to their starring roles in 1970s cult classics like “Nice Dreams” and “Up in Smoke”. Their monthly sales were recorded as $7696 in California in the first quarter of 2023 putting them below the traditional brand average.
Although Cheech & Chong’s movies came out in the 70s, they remain relevant in today’s cannabis circles thanks to modern marketing efforts. They hold interview sessions with young social media influencers in their custom-built studios near the Los Angeles International Airport where they talk about their product line. They also have a strong presence across modern social media channels like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram.
What’s the Appeal?
Celebrity endorsed marijuana brands are outperforming traditional brands. But what’s the appeal?
Drew Punjuabi, brand manager of 22 Red, a cannabis brand founded by Shavo Odadjian, bassist of the metal band System of a Down, points out that celebrities “can open doors and connect with potential partners, which can help create unique promotions and meaningful interactions with customers”.
He also noted that celebrity appearances in retail outlets help drive sales.
“It’s 2023 and influence is king. Celebrities have that equity with their fans and followers,” he said.
“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.”
Investing in Authenticity
Tress Capital sees the value in investing in celebrity endorsed marijuana brands. The company began investing in cannabis early on launching its first partnership in 2021.
Unlike Cann, Tress takes the approach of investing in brands endorsed by celebrities that have associations with marijuana.
“Cannabis people sniff out authenticity,” said Tress Capital President David Hess. “If it’s not authentic, we’re not going to embrace it.”
Brands Tress’s celebrity endorsed marijuana brands include:
- Tyson 2.0- endorsed by former boxer Mike Tyson- the company ranked number 3 in California with median monthly sales of $290,730.
- Highsman- endorsed by former NFL running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams- the company ranked number 9 in California with median monthly sales of $51,133.
- Tical- endorsed by rapper/actor Method Man- the company ranked number 10 in California with median monthly sales of $50,565
Challenges of Celebrity Endorsed Marijuana Brands
There are some challenges involved in celebrity endorsed marijuana brands. The biggest challenge is overcoming consumer perceptions. Consumers may question a brand’s authenticity, price structure, and the extent to which the celebrity is involved in operations, all of which can be detrimental to sales.
There are also issues due to ‘cancel culture’. For example, if the celebrity is involved in a scandal, it could be detrimental to the brand.
For example, Mike Tyson was recently involved in a physical altercation with a belligerent airline passenger which could have harmed the reputation of Tyson 2.0. Fortunately, the incident blew over and did not gain much attention.
There’s also the question of consumer awareness. For instance, many consumers are not aware that Cann and some other brands have celebrity affiliations.
Celebrity longevity and relevance are also issues. If a celebrity’s popularity wanes, so may their cannabis brand. There’s also the possibility that the celebrity could die.
Carrying on the Dead Legacy
Issues involved with celebrity endorsed marijuana brands are acutely felt by Holistic Industry, the executive behind Garcia’s Hand-Picked No. 7, a brand that pays homage to Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia who died in 1995.
You may think it’s easy to appeal to Deadheads- followers of the Grateful Dead who are known for their love of cannabis and psychedelics. But they are also known to be an anti-corporate fickle bunch with keen suspicions of ‘the man”.
Chief marketing officer for Holistic, Kyle Barich, has discussed challenges in keeping his customers happy. “They want top flower, interesting cultivators, new SKUs all the time,” he said.
“A good portion of my life is catering to that very difficult audience.”
Celebrity endorsed marijuana brands face their share of challenges. But the money they rake in makes the effort worthwhile. Do you buy brands for their marketing appeal?