These are two words you don’t get in the same sentence very often – Cannabis and sponsorship. But with more and more countries legalising the drug and branded companies emerging, the question of marketing and sponsorship has started to arise. Are there any expectations for them? Any limitations? Should they be allowed to do it at all?
Cannabis Sponsorship in Canada
The Canadian Cannabis Act is coming into place on October 17th and already there is trouble in the sponsorship world. As the legislation doesn’t come in until next month, there seems to be a bit of free rain for cannabis brands and organisations. And you can tell they are using this time as wisely as possible!
The most impressive being HEXO Corporation, who have taken this time to sponsor and hold a range of events completely free of charge to the general public. They simply have to give their full name, email address, postcode, proof of being 19+ and be willing for the company to be in contact with them in the future.
They have called this The Never Jaded Tour with events such as:
- Cult movies showings
- The Big Lebowski
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- Art exhibitions
- Tristan Eaton
- Live shows
- Fetty Wap
- Our Lady Peace
The most recent of these events was a live show by the American hip-hop band, the Wu-Tang Clan, on Sunday (30/09/18) which seems to be a very good fit for the cannabis brand. But even before the show began, articles were being released saying that technically HEXO were breaking the law, as spoken about earlier.
The Health Canada has strict rules on what drug companies (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana) can and cannot do when it comes to advertising. This includes
- Promotion through sponsorship of people, events or buildings;
- Promotion through any testimonials or endorsements;
- Promotion using the depictions of persons, celebrities, characters or animals.
As mentioned, the legalisation does not come into place until the 17th October, as you can tell by the HEXO campaign, corporations are taking full advantage of this loophole. Take a look at what other brands have been up to this summer…
Summer of Sponsorships
Tweed, the recreational brand by Canopy Growth sponsored two iconic bands on Toronto’s Budweiser Stage, Kendrick Lamar, and Jethro Tull. With the Tweed logo being seen on banners around the arena, their brand awareness skyrocketed. They also committed to many events over the summer with their marketing director, Amy Wasserman, saying “We’re at basically every Pride event across the country, and we’ll be at the Calgary Stampede for our Western friends. We have about 250 events that we’ve committed to throughout the summer.”
Another brand, Aurora Cannabis, is offering free tickets to concerts by Kings of Leon, The Cult, Sam Roberts and more, by entering a competition.
The brands Up Cannabis and Tragically Hip recently staged a lifestyle and music event on the outskirts of Toronto where Gord Sinclair (the bassist of the band Tragically Hip which the company was named after) announced their new strains of cannabis.
What is going to happen after the legalisation?
The laws on advertising and sponsorship slowly progressed over the years, as the health risks became more apparent, for alcohol and tobacco, so what does that mean for Marijuana?
Tobacco advertising was banned in 1997 in Canada, however, sponsorship didn’t join the Tobacco Act until 2003. As Marijuana has gone from being illegal to recreational, no such leeway will be given.
As the trend seems to be showing, that peoples opinions on Cannabis are changing to be more lenient, there is a potential that the laws will start off strict and then adjust to the consumer behaviours. “I think our role is going to evolve, I think legislation is going to evolve, as people realize it ain’t the demon weed,” said the Hip’s Gord Sinclair. “People will figure that out fairly quickly.”
For now, in a statement, Health Canada said while advertising of cannabis is prohibited, “licensed producers are permitted to provide basic information to prospective clients, such as their brand name, proper or common name of the strain, price per gram, cannabinoid content and the company’s contact information.”
This is an interesting development in sponsorship, to see where corporations can draw the line between brand and health. It’s been fun to see these companies push the limits before the Cannabis act comes into legislation, but we’re curious to see what will happen to the sponsorship deals after it’s in place.