First Cannabis ads coming soon to Spotify

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First Cannabis ads coming soon to Spotify

The advertisements for beer companies and underwear start-ups on your favorite podcast may soon be accompanied by cannabis commercials.

Chicago-based marijuana company Cresco Labs Inc. announced on Thursday that it will become the “first cannabis company to launch cannabis advertisements on Spotify, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service with more than 551 million users and 220 million subscribers.”

The ad campaign will promote Sunnyside, a chain of dispensaries operated by Cresco Labs and will include “30 second audio and in-app digital banners that drive to the retailer’s proprietary e-commerce platform,” the company said in a press release.

Those ads will be specifically targeted to Spotify listeners (and would-be Sunnyside customers) in Illinois, where recreational cannabis is legal.

“Audio streaming services represent a major opportunity for brands to reach large audiences in a targeted manner, and we’re excited to collaborate with Spotify to launch the first-ever cannabis ads from our Sunnyside national retail brand,” Cory Rothschild, Cresco Labs’ National Retail President, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our Sunnyside advertising strategy is built on a data ecosystem enabling best-in-class targeting and measurement. Spotify’s platform will enable our marketing team to target our ads compliantly and profitably to our core shoppers in Illinois where we have a leading share in retail. This important partnership is not only a step in normalizing cannabis, but it also showcases the sophistication and quality of marketing that we have unlocked at Cresco Labs.”

Advertising has been a tricky area to navigate for cannabis companies looking to market in the United States, where marijuana remains subject to federal prohibition. 

Marketing Brew ran a story in 2021 detailing those challenges, and highlighted how the publicly traded Cresco Labs “has a podcast advertising strategy that is just as nuance-filled as you’d expect,” and that its “core strategy hits at the intersection of host-read and programmatic ads.”

The outlet reported that the company “only advertises in states where cannabis—and therefore, marketing cannabis products—is legal.”

“We follow the letter of the law in terms of our content in our delivery,” Matt Pickerel, senior director of performance marketing at Cresco Labs, told Marketing Brew. “So, because we’re dynamically inserting podcast ads, we only serve in the states where we have a footprint and where we have all the licenses that we need.”

Pickerel explained that the podcast company Headgum allowed Cresco Labs to “dynamically insert pre-recorded host-read ads in states Cresco wants to advertise in.”

“Because podcast measurement is still ‘in its infancy,’ Pickerel said, Cresco tracks success with ‘some pretty elementary metrics.’ Those include number of impressions, completes, discount-code redemptions, and website visits if the podcast mentions Cresco’s URL,” Marketing Brew reported at the time.

“While Cresco hasn’t jumped into the podcast advertising landscape headfirst due to those measurement concerns, Pickerel told us it’s doing more than dipping a toe in, with about 15% of its marketing budget going toward podcasts.”

Cresco says that its mission is to “normalize and professionalize the cannabis industry through a CPG approach to building national brands and a customer-focused retail experience, while acting as a steward for the industry on legislative and regulatory-focused initiatives.”

“As a leader in cultivation, production and branded product distribution, the Company is leveraging its scale and agility to grow its portfolio of brands that include Cresco, High Supply, FloraCal, Good News, Wonder Wellness Co., Mindy’s and Remedi, on a national level. The Company also operates highly productive dispensaries nationally under the Sunnyside brand that focus on building patient and consumer trust and delivering ongoing education and convenience in a wonderfully traditional retail experience. Through year-round policy, community outreach and SEED initiative efforts, Cresco Labs embraces the responsibility to support communities through authentic engagement, economic opportunity, investment, workforce development and legislative initiatives designed to create the most responsible, respectable and robust cannabis industry possible,” the company said in Thursday’s press release.

According to Business Insider, Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell “is a keynote speaker at the upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago on September 27 and 28, where he will undoubtedly share more insights regarding the new partnership with Spotify.”

In addition to the Benzinga conference in Chicago later this month, Cresco Labs said that Bachtell will also appear at the ATB 2023 Life Sciences Institutional Investor Conference on September 20 in New York City, and the AGP Annual Virtual Cannabis Conference on October 4.

Sunnyside has dispensaries across seven states: one in Arizona, 33 in Florida, ten in Illinois, four in Massachusetts, four in New York, five in Ohio and 14 in Pennsylvania.

Sunnyside opened a new location last month in Palm Bay, Florida.

“We continue to expand the Sunnyside brand and increase access to top-quality cannabis products in the most meaningful Florida markets,” Bachtell said at the time. “Palm Bay is the most populous city in Brevard County with over 129,000 residents, and the city’s location just southeast of Orlando will enable Sunnyside Palm Bay, along with our many other stores in the East Central Florida region, to serve tens of thousands of patients with their cannabis needs.”

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