Steve Garvey, retired Major League Baseball player, Hall of Fame nominee and 1981 World Series Champion, is doing more with CBD topical product line Level Select than your typical famous athlete pitchman.
Garvey not only uses the product, he’s also got skin in the game as co-founder and head of sports partnerships at Kadenwood Inc., the consumer product startup that’s rolling out Level Select products across the U.S.
Garvey said he’s willing to risk the “Wild West” of a relatively new product category because he believes in the health benefits of CBD for athletes and other consumers.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana, or manufactured in a laboratory and there is some evidence that it can relieve pain and anxiety.
Garvey remains active despite joint replacements in both hips and his left shoulder and said the nano processing of CBD in Level Select 3 topical ointment helps it penetrate into his muscles and joints.
“It keeps me in the game of life at 73,” Garvey told MarketWatch. “I play golf and I exercise and walk three miles a day. I’ve got seven grandkids and everybody knows that Papa is a known athlete, so I’ve got to be at the top of my game.”
Level Select remains in talks with Major League Baseball about potential product sponsorships, with the expectation of some kind of presence in 2023 with a team or player, Garvey said.
The league opened up the CBD category for sponsorship opportunities in the spring of 2022 — with the blessing of big leaguers in the Major League Baseball Players Association — as a path to wider use of CBD to ease pain, insomnia and anxiety.
“We’re in a business where you may have to go for 20 to 22 straight days, competing for three to five hours a day in front of tens of thousands of people with a lot of physical and mental strain,” Garvey said. “I went out there with migraines and the flu and elbow problems with just hot and cold treatments, hot cream and maybe a couple of aspirin. And within 18 hours you’d be back.”
In February, Level Select’s CBD line inked a distribution partnership with the largest supermarket chain in the country, Kroger
for 1,200 stores nationally. Its products are also in CVS
Overall acceptance of CBD has grown on the retail level, but with little or no standards provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and restrictions on cannabis-products on the federal level, hemp-derived CBD remains in limbo in some store chains.
Some of Level Select’s potential retail and sports partners currently enforce restrictions on CBD and others don’t. A company may have 1,000 stores and 750 of them allow CBD products.
For this reason, Kadenwood is also developing Level Select OTC, a non CBD product and topical ointment for sports and wellness. The product is planned for launch by early 2023 as an alternative to rival offerings from Icy Hot, Bio Freeze and Bengay.
Currently, Level Select’s CBD line comes in three unit types: Level Select 3 for active athletes with 1,800 mg of CBD per container, Level Select 2 for weekend warriors with 1,200 mg and Level Select 1 with 900 mg.
As CBD restrictions ease, Level Select may weave the ingredient into more products.
“We have to be patient when a grocer or pharmacy chain says, ‘Well, we have it locked up in a kiosk in the front of the store because we have internal restrictions,’” Garvey said. “To get the product on the shelf…will take a little longer.”
Kadenwood Inc., the parent of Level Select, was co-founded in 2019 as a plant-based wellness company by CEO Erick Dickens, executive chairman Todd Davis and Garvey. Dickens is a consumer packaged goods veteran who previously worked for King’s Hawaiian and on Henkel’s
Right Guard, Dry Idea and Soft & Dri brands.
Davis was also co-founder and CEO of LifeLock Inc., which he took public in 2012 and then sold to Symantic for $2.3 billion in 2016. The combined company has since changed its name to NortonLifeLock Inc.
Garvey worked with Level Select CEO Dickens when he was a spokesman for King’s Hawaiian, the skin products maker that’s been heavily involved in Major League Baseball. Garvey’s duties at the time included holding “Grilling with the Garv” cooking events at King’s Hawaiian Grill in Dodgers Stadium.
Dickens reached out to Garvey and shared his idea to create a consumer goods company with CBD infused products. Garvey offered his life-long expertise as an athlete, and his knowledge of Major League Baseball and players’ needs.
Kadenwood raised a $50 million Series B round of venture capital in 2021 with lead investors The Craftory and Arcadian Capital Management, following a $15 million Series A round in 2020.
Looking ahead, Level Select hopes to grow its product line to 26 products, or stock-keeping units (SKUs), from 16 now. It also expects to sell its products in 22,000 stores by 2023 and it’s targeting 40,000 stores by 2024 as one of the biggest CBD consumer products in the U.S.
To get the word out to potential infuencers and bankers, it’s inked a sponsorship deal for a polo team called Level Select CBD, based in the high-end Greenwich Polo Club of Greenwich, Conn.
Level Select also lists pro sports players as product endorsers including former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer, basketball great and broadcaster Ann Meyers Drysdale and pro golfer Ricky Fowler. The company is poised to add a pro tennis player to its roster as well.
As a veteran of both the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garvey said a baseball deal remains a major priority.
“We’re in the on deck-circle for a possible league sponsorship or individual team sponsorship — we’re open, we’re flexible,” Garvey said. “We want to get into sports sponsorships ASAP.”
Correction: This story has been updated to indicate that Steve Garvey is a baseball Hall of Fame nominee; also to correct the name Kadenwood Inc.