Is this Love? Privateer Uses Bob Marley for New Marijuana Brand

By Natalie Tadena, Wall Street Journal. Here’s my POV:

Privateer, a private-equity firm that invests exclusively in the legal cannabis industry, has inked a 30-year licensing deal with the late musician’s family to launch Marley Natural, the world’s first global cannabis brand. The Marley Natural line of products will include “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains,” cannabis- and hemp-infused lotions and balms and and accessories that will go on sale late next year in jurisdictions where regulations permit. The licensing deal was first reported by NBC’s “Today” show.

Members of Bob Marley’s family

Mr. Marley, who died in 1981, was a vocal advocate for the benefits of smoking marijuana, or “the herb,” as he called it. Leveraging the Marley name will give Privateer a competitive advantage in an industry that has been generating more and more buzz but has yet to make a big marketing push, branding experts said. Privateer estimates the U.S. cannabis market to be between $40 billion and $50 billion and the global market to be between $150 billion and $200 billion.

“Celebrity endorsement is a really powerful way to cut through a lot of the clutter and get on top of the competition,” said branding consultant Dean Crutchfield. “Bob Marley is a brand. He inspires an authentic story and can help create an authentic community.”

Consumers are more receptive to celebrity endorsements if the celebrity’s personality matches that of the brand and if the deal is a long-term one, noted Allen Adamson, the chairman of Landor North America.

“It’s not surprising that the same techniques that are used to powerfully market other categories of course will work in legalized marijuana,” Mr. Adamson said. “You pick someone that hasn’t been overexposed, someone [for whom] consumers can authentically see the link between the product category and the celebrity and someone whose personality you want the brand to better mimic.”

Building a brand can cost a lot of money and take a lot of time, but the association with Mr. Marley gives the new line of products ”weight and gravitas” from the start, said Privateer Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy.

Privateer  is positioning Marley Natural as a “premium” brand with a strong social conscience that will be heavily involved in philanthropic endeavors and charitable contributions. But the firm doesn’t plan on doing a lot of advertising to promote Marley Natural, Mr. Kennedy added.

“You have a cultural icon who is so closely associated with the product that it’s a natural fit,” Mr. Kennedy said.  ”The big advantage of this partnership is that Bob Marley is a name and an icon that has global reach from day one.”

Financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. The Marley family trust will have an equity stake in Privateer Holdings and the Marley Natural brand will be wholly owned by Privateer Holdings.

“We are joining with Privateer Holdings because they understand and respect our father’s legacy,” said Rohan Marley, Bob’s son.

 

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Author: Dean Crutchfield

In an award-winning career spanning two decades, Dean Crutchfield has created, built and re-invigorated some of the world's most iconic brands.

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