Brand Strategy

“Not inventing, just embracing”: A Florida cannabis brand’s approach to experiential marketing

Considering the litany of restrictions on marijuana advertising, Sunburn Cannabis founder Brady Cobb is leaning into experiences tied to music and surfing.
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Sunburn Cannabis

· 3 min read

With 11 stores across Florida and two more to come by the end of the year, medical marijuana dispensary Sunburn Cannabis needs to promote its brand one way or another.

But the state’s rules are “stringent,” according to founder and CEO Brady Cobb. Recreational marijuana isn’t legal in the state, and a recent law passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis bans ads that promote recreational use.

On the national level, weed marketers are limited on digital platforms, and print poses difficulties as well, Cobb said. Some in the industry have turned to platforms like podcasts and OOH as workarounds, but Cobb found a different solution: hyper-local experiential campaigns tied to music or water sports.

“I can’t think of a concert I’ve been to where you didn’t smell some weed,” he told Marketing Brew. “We are not inventing anything there. We are just embracing.”

Swell idea: Founded last year, Sunburn Cannabis is named after “Operation Sunburn,” the federal investigation that brought down Florida drug smuggler Bill Cobb, Brady’s father. Cobb said he inherited his “passion for the industry” from his dad, but attributes his love of surfing and the ocean to his mom, who sent him to lifeguard camp when he was a kid.

Cobb said his own experience, plus the fact that “cannabis and surfing have gone together for quite some time,” inspired him to use water sports as a way to promote his company. And though he’s been surfing since he was around the age of six, he needed someone else to help kick off that strategy.

Surf’s up: Enter Florida native and 2019 World Surf League champ Justin Quintal, who kicked off a partnership with Sunburn in July. Quintal said he uses medical marijuana for recovery as he trains, and that other pro athletes “are being more open” about their own use.

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While the relationship between sports and weed is at times fraught, the tide does seem to be turning. The NBA recently lifted its ban on marijuana for players, for instance, and CBD companies are buying up sponsorships across major leagues.

As part of his deal with Sunburn, Quintal promotes the brand primarily via his social accounts, according to Cobb. There are ​​some “restrictions based on his primary surfing sponsors as to what can be on the board or what he can wear when he's surfing,” so Quintal can’t yet rep Sunburn’s logo during competitions, but Cobb said he’s working to make that happen.


Rock on: Music is another pillar of Sunburn’s marketing. The brand recently hosted an event with Jacksonville-based band the Honey Hounds, and worked with reggae rock band Dirty Heads to set up a tent at their concert in Apopka, Cobb said.

While he can’t hand out product at shows (as much as concertgoers might wish), he can bring merch like T-shirts and lighters and have people sign up to receive texts and emails from the brand, he said. “It’s a great way to meet people where they are.”

Down the pipe: Ever since Quintal made his first post for Sunburn, Cobb said other surfers have reached out about wanting to partner, too, and he’s considering moving forward with them.

“We don’t pick partners loosely,” he said. “We pick someone that we want to grow with for quite some time.”

The brand is also sponsoring Florida State’s Excalibur Cup surfing contest in October, according to Cobb, and developing its own competition to ideally take place in the spring.

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