The health and wellness industry continues to boom in the US which is reported to have the most health and wellness clubs in the world. Industry revenue is currently valued at some US$35 billion and enjoying growth of more than 8%. The products that support this industry are also hugely valuable with sports drinks now valued at more than US$8 billion in the US. It is no wonder that the CBD industry is eyeing the opportunity to meet the need for solutions that assist post-workout recovery compounded by the obvious – few are eager to get back the gym due to the pandemic.
Celebrity Endorsement Fills Brand Vacuum
UFC 257 winner and giant (see: Conor McGregor) slayer, Dustin Poirier, is the latest in a long line of athletes who have joined their name to the CBD trend. Operating under the name of REAP, Poirier’s company offers oils and recovery gels aimed at the emerging sports recovery niche within CBD. Already popular within the NFL, MMA is rapidly adopting CBD as part of its training and recovery culture as a recognized remedy to the trauma associated with injuries, muscle recovery, and the sleep disorders and anxiety that go hand-in-hand with participating in full-contact sport. So prevalent is the use of CBD within the sport, that in January 2021 the UFC made additional changes to its anti-doping policies to accommodate the use of cannabinoids by competitors. Similar action has also been taken by the NFL and follows moves made by The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2018 to allow CBD.
This has massive implications for the rapidly expanding CBD market. There are 451 million people participating in and following MMA, making it the third-most-popular sport in the world, and certainly one of the fastest-growing, according to Nielsen Sports DNA. Largely viewed as housing the elite in fighting and athletic prowess, the training techniques and tips of MMA fighters are widely shared and adopted around the world, and CBD as a sports recovery aid is fast benefiting from this association. Data from High Yield’s survey of 35,322 US adults aged 21+ finds that CBD is now incorporated into the exercise routines of over one in ten CBD users, with users closely matching the demographic profile of the typical MMA fan – predominantly male and young.
In the absence of the major CPG/FMCG brands, celebrities, and in particular, sporting celebrities have filled the vacuum in global branding. However, this is a role that comes with responsibility. Our data finds that in the CBD exercise space, more is expected of brands not just in terms of post-purchase consumer care, but also in terms of pre-purchase accountability and accessibility.
Senior Consultant, Alexandra Curley elaborated on the High Yield survey findings:
“Those who use CBD for exercise recovery are highly invested in what they put into their bodies, reading ingredients labeling and buying into foods with enhanced ingredients. This all contributes to the fact that they are more likely to know what brand they want to buy prior to purchase. This is a group that will not be ‘green-washed’ or taken in by spurious marketing claims and are significantly more likely to call out a claim by contacting a brand with questions prior to purchase.”
Consumer Look for Big Brands to Enter the Ring
At present, the exercise recovery segment of the CBD market is dominated by indie brands, but High Yield data shows that the CBD consumer who uses CBD for exercise recovery is excited by the investment of big food and drink brands in CBD and will welcome the presence of these brands which they believe will also help to improve product standards.
Our data also reveals that there is a degree of overlap with the use of CBD for pain relief and that of sports performance, so specialist CBD exercise brands will also find themselves in competition with general pain relief products within the CBD space as well.
With multinationals circling the market, it begs the question of whether their eventual presence will eat into the early gains made by celebrity athlete start-ups. Time will only tell. However, what we can be certain of is that the niche usage of CBD will continue to permeate popular subcultures and this will make the role of branding of crucial importance going forward.