By Emily Ledger
US CBD Brand ‘Ignite’ launched in the UK yesterday. The company is headed by Dan Bilzerian, the wealthy Navy Officer-turned-poker player-turned-Playboy entrepreneur. The CBD and Cannabis brand is already established in the US.
Bilzerian is often spotted with a parade of attractive women – nowhere more so than on his Instagram account, where he has built up a following of over 27 million followers.
The UK campaign – or the “Ignited Kingdom” campaign was revealed, and products went on sale yesterday (16th July). Ignite CBD were the gold sponsors of the Europe CBD Expo event this weekend, and branding appeared all around the venue, including behind the main speakers stage.
Having already launched in the US, some audiences were critical of the tastefulness of the campaign. Women can be seen flaunting the CBD and Cannabis products in small, branded bikinis all over the US website. Despite having toned down the campaign for the UK, there have still been some critics for alienating female industry members, and consumers.
Carly Barton, Medical Cannabis advocate and Deputy Director at United Patients Alliance Ltd, pulled out of the Europe CBD Expo, partially due to Bilzerian’s appearance. In a tweet directed at the event’s Twitter page, Barton wrote:
“One of the now many reasons why I have cancelled my speaking engagement … Life’s better no where near Dan Bilzerian.”
The tweet was accompanied with one of the images of the “Ignited Kingdom” campaign.
Barton has also said:
“We’re building up an industry which has barely just begun. We’ve got the opportunity to shape it in the way we feel is appropriate for the people. There is a responsibility to set some kind of moral standard.
“We can’t let people come in and think it’s okay to parade girls around with the products.”
Despite an attempt to tone down the campaign, the images and advertisements circulating for the brand still have a clear audience. That audience is, undeniably, the same audience that follow the “King of Instagram”. The majority of Bilzerian’s followers are males aged between 18 and 35.
In an interview with the BBC, he said:
“At the end of the day if you want to effectively market to a target group, you’re not going to appeal to everybody. Those companies that try and cater to everybody, end up making everybody not care,””
But the controversy of the brand doesn’t end there. Despite being accused of sexist and misogynistic advertising, the PR parade at the Europe CBD Expo, perhaps, left much to be desired. Bilzerian, surrounded by the signature crowd of beautiful women, stopped for press pictures. To accommodate for the presentation, the Women in Cannabis panel discussion was reportedly pushed back. Some may call this a case in point.
Ignite’s launch party also highlighted the nature of the campaign. The party was reported to have cost £500,000 and featured many young, beautiful women walking around the room with the CBD products. The scenes appear to be outdated and possibly regressive for today’s equality-concious society. No more so than in a new industry that is attempting to lead the way for gender equality.
Nevertheless, Bilzerian’s huge social media following and attention around the brand are likely to make the brand, at least commercially, a success.