Every Super Bowl features outstanding athletic feats, an overindulgence of meats and cheeses, and ads that get talked about and reposted the following day endlessly.
Despite being legal in most U.S. states, a supermajority of Americans favors legalization. The halftime show featuring the unofficial worldwide ambassador for cannabis consumption, Snoop Dogg, marijuana is considered an inappropriate advertising fare by the NFL.
Famously, the Ridley Scott-directed 1984 Apple ad during Super Bowl XVIII outshined the game itself (a 38-9 blowout by Oakland over Washington).
Since then, the advertisements have become must-see TV, attracting multitudes of non-football fans to the extravaganza.
And while this year’s broadcast could include ads from hard liquors, sports betting apps, and cryptocurrencies, one “lifestyle” product will be absent: cannabis.
Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, it has been relegated to a “restricted” category by the NFL. This category applies to all NFL broadcasts, not just the Super Bowl.
The NFL hasn’t released detailed information regarding any other products on its restricted list. But just because an item is restricted now doesn’t mean it will be banned indefinitely.
The NFL revised its list in 2017 to allow advertising of distilled spirits during its games. That same year GNC had a Super Bowl ad rejected because some of its products contained substances banned by the NFL.
Anheuser-Busch is the exclusive beer and hard seltzer sponsor of the Super Bowl, but other beer companies can purchase local ad time.
When asked if the same was true for cannabis – could a local dispensary, in a state where marijuana is legal, advertise via a local buy? NFL spokesperson Alex Riethmiller replied, “Cannabis falls within that restricted category … it’s currently a prohibited category.”
The NFL decision-making process for advertising has long been puzzling.
Their 2017 list banned ads for condoms but allowed ads for prescription birth control pills. Perhaps tacitly admitting that the NFL wrongly believes the responsibility for pregnancy falls entirely to the woman.
Entities within the cannabis industry have tried to get their advertisements on NFL broadcasts. Acreage Holdings, a medical cannabis company, was rejected when it tried to get an ad focused on medical marijuana treatments during Super Bowl LIII.
Founded in 2008 to locate dispensaries online, California-based Weedmaps approached their ad agency to get an ad into this year’s Super Bowl.
“It was a blanket ‘no,'” said Juanjo Feijoo, COO of Weedmaps.
Despite a growing number of professional athletes using cannabis for mental health and pain relief, the NFL is putting its head in the sand.
It can be years until people see cannabis supplies featured in an advertisement for a Superbowl commercial.