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With the limited-run product, the company’s goal is to participate in the annual sports event—which has turned into an all-American holiday—like any other consumer packaged goods brand. While there’s no official link to the Big Game and no National Football League trademarks involved, Cresco wants to drift off the energy around the football matchup, aiming to normalize weed as a party guest and target both loyalists and newbies with the novelty marinade.
“We’re trying to bring cannabis to consumers in a way that feels natural, not forced,” said Dana Mason, vice president of wholesale marketing at Cresco. “It’s about noticing consumer behaviors and traditions around big occasions and developing a product specifically for that moment.”
And please, no jokes about “food coma,” as the brand has dosing instructions in place to try to avoid any old-school pot brownie-style mishaps.
Each 10-ounce jar of wing sauce—released under the Cresco brand Good News—contains 100 milligrams of THC. Doing the math for consumers, the brand recommends that the sauce be spread over 24 wings. That way, each wing would pack a mild 3-milligram to 5-milligram punch, similar to a low-dose weed soda or a single edible. (Portion control is left up to the snacker.)
The product, available Feb. 2 at select Sunnyside dispensaries in the Chicago area, comes via a partnership with The Fifty/50, a legendary local watering hole that sells more than 1,000 pounds of chicken wings on a typical Big Game day.
The collaboration, which fits snugly into the ongoing cannabis-infused culinary trend, relies on the existing sauce recipe from The Fifty/50, which has been laced with “an odorless and tasteless distillate,” per Mason.
In other words, the result is supposed to be spicy, not dank. There’s a limited quantity for the initial drop, but the company may restock depending on buyer response.
The product, believed to be the first commercially available wing sauce from a cannabis brand, takes its place within the Good News history of short-term holiday-centric goodies such as its Pride-themed multi-flavored edibles and upcoming “Afternoon Delight” vapes and disposable pens for Valentine’s Day.
Good News’ condiment also follows in the footsteps of Kiva’s THC-spiked gravy for Thanksgiving, as weed brands increasingly put their twist on mainstream consumer holidays.
Doing an end-run
Cresco’s eye-catching stunt comes as cannabis brands continue to face heavy restrictions on paid advertising, including bans on major social platforms like TikTok, Google and Meta.
The industry—which is still federally prohibited, although legal in 40 states—is shut out of any formal marketing around the Big Game, including on-air commercials. Two brands have tried, and failed, to get their spots included in recent telecasts—Weedmaps’ instant classic starring Brock Ollie and Acreage Holdings’ heart-tugging public-service announcement were both turned down by TV networks and the NFL.
Some brands, like Hollywood-favorite weed soda Cann, have gone guerrilla with out-of-home campaigns critical of the rampant alcohol advertising during the program. Industry executives have also pointed to sports betting as another regulated category with multiple Big Game appearances.
Flag on the play
Sidling up to the Super Bowl in any way has to be carefully handled, according to Howard Schacter, chief communications officer at cannabis multistate operator MariMed.
“There are IP (intellectual property) issues and if we’re going to be taken seriously as an industry, we have to act like any other category,” Schacter said, noting that Super Bowl trademarks are off limits to brands not formally linked with the NFL.
That said, Super Bowl-inspired campaigns can be good strategic moves because they “take advantage of a milestone cultural moment as it’s happening to build some brand visibility and traffic.”
Schacter was previously part of the team that shepherded the would-be Super Bowl commercial from Acreage Holdings, giving it a strong social push and capitalizing on the rejection from CBS. He sees the value of Big Game-adjacent efforts, given certain caveats.
“If you can do this marketing in a smart and authentic way, and within the bounds of trademark law and cannabis compliance, it can capture the attention of the canna-curious,” Schacter said. “That’s what we’re all trying to do.”