Cannabis tech company Weedmaps, on the heels of several well-attended virtual events and original content created in-house, has picked Wheelhouse Labs as its entertainment marketing agency of record.
The appointment of Wheelhouse Labs has two primary goals: to embed the brand further into popular culture and combat stereotypes of cannabis fans in the media landscape.
The alliance, announced Wednesday, comes just ahead of Weedmaps’ expected merger with Silver Spike Acquisition Corp. and its IPO (valuation of the combined companies is estimated at $1.5 billion).
Senior leaders at the digital cannabis marketplace met with about a half-dozen agencies after putting out a request for proposals last year. They chose Wheelhouse, a bicoastal firm founded by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and reality show maven Brent Montgomery, to generate ideas and scout opportunities to raise its mainstream profile. Wheelhouse Labs is the company’s marketing arm.
“We want consumers to think about cannabis the same way they do beer or coffee,” Juanjo Feijoo, CMO of Weedmaps, told Adweek. “We see this as part of our responsibility as a leader in the business, trying to move the entire industry forward.”
And the partnership aims to chip away at tired old tropes about cannabis and its consumers that have proliferated for decades.
“We want to work on getting rid of the stigma once and for all,” Feijoo said. “The narrative that we see in entertainment, whether it’s TV or movies, is often really out of sync with the reality that people are living, especially those in legalized states.”
The deal, for instance, could put Weedmaps reps in Hollywood writers’ rooms to present an accurate view of the modern weed business and start discussions with streaming services for scripted or unscripted series.
The delivery platform has previously handled most of its content and entertainment forays via its in-house teams or through one-off tie-ins, Feijoo said, but wanted a dedicated agency that would be consistent and proactive.
“Where we are as a company, and where the industry is, we want to make sure it’s not just opportunistic and sporadic,” he said. “It will be a core pillar of our marketing strategy.”
Wheelhouse Labs, a creative and branding agency within the broader Wheelhouse Group, is working with a swath of buzz-worthy talent like TikTok influencer collective Hype House, Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine.
“Combining Wheelhouse’s access and network of creators with Weedmaps’ mission to drive a safe and socially equitable cannabis economy will create opportunities that leverage the power of entertainment to inform and entertain,” Dan Sanborn, president of Wheelhouse Labs, said in a statement.
“Our collaboration with Weedmaps could not be more timely,” said Sanborn, a Diageo alum. “We believe the [entertainment] industry is ready to embrace this bold new category.”
Weedmaps has an entertainment track record with its Higher Together virtual concerts, first established in spring 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. The brand created a sequel of sorts, Even Higher Together, for the cannabis high holiday, April 20, this year, expanding it with a mini-conference dedicated to social justice issues.