In a unique show of support for the Detroit Lions during their playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Michigan's own Pleasantrees cannabis company has launched a series of eye-catching billboards. These billboards, placed strategically along Interstate 75, are not only rallying the local community but also subtly highlighting Michigan's progressive stance on marijuana usage compared to Florida's more restricted approach.
The billboards feature bold statements like "Tampa Bay Smokes Hemp. Let's Go Detroit," drawing attention to the fact that Florida permits only medical marijuana use, whereas Michigan allows recreational use for those over 21. This initiative by Pleasantrees, headquartered in Mount Clemens, is a clever blend of sports enthusiasm and cannabis culture.
Bryan Wickersham, President of Pleasantrees, explains that the billboards aim to unite the Michigan cannabis industry and its community in a light-hearted manner, leveraging common industry terms. "With the Lions fever gripping everyone, it seemed a natural fit to find a way to support our team," Wickersham commented.
The idea for these billboards was conceived ahead of the Lions' playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams on January 14th. The messages have been crafted to be cheeky yet respectful, avoiding legal complications and specific names. For instance, an earlier billboard targeting the Los Angeles game read, "Los Angeles Smokes Mids. Let's Go Detroit," a playful jab at California's mid-grade cannabis.
Wickersham notes that while not everyone may grasp the humor (he mentions even his mother queried about the meaning of 'mids'), these billboards spark conversations around cannabis, helping to destigmatize and normalize it. The choice of hemp in the Tampa Bay billboards is a nod to the legal definition of hemp products, which contain 0.3% or less THC, commonly used in states without recreational marijuana legalization.
In Michigan's burgeoning $3 billion cannabis industry, differentiating oneself through advertising is a significant challenge. Traditional advertising avenues like TV and radio are largely inaccessible to cannabis companies due to federal regulations, as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
Billboards have emerged as a viable alternative. They offer a legal loophole, arguing that drivers are predominantly over 16, with a significant proportion being over 21. Pleasantrees was among the first to successfully employ this strategy, inspiring other companies to follow suit.
Nationally, out-of-home advertising, which includes billboards and posters, is a growing sector. According to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, the revenue in this sector reached $6.5 billion in the first three quarters of 2023. While cannabis companies contribute only about 1% to this national revenue, in Michigan, they account for roughly 7% of the estimated $154 million spent on such advertisements in 2023.
Wickersham emphasizes their approach to billboard advertising as distinct, aiming not for direct promotion but rather to create emotional connections and community engagement.
Pleasantrees has been innovative in its market presence beyond billboards. The company, established in 2018, has repurposed the famous Gibraltar Trade Center, a recognizable landmark in Macomb County, into a processing facility and dispensary. They also operate cultivation facilities and dispensaries in various Michigan locations.
As for the future, Ryan Wood, the creative director of Pleasantrees, hints that this won't be their last venture into event-driven advertising. Although cautious not to jinx the outcome of the upcoming game, plans for post-victory billboards are already on the drawing board, with ideas like "Green Bay smokes cheese," a playful reference to subpar marijuana, being considered.
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