Mike Tyson’s cannabis brand hires AB InBev vet as first CMO—here is her plan

Jackie Northacker Guarini, a digital marketing and e-commerce specialist, joins Tyson 2.0 as it expands aggressively.  

Mike Tyson’s cannabis brand hires AB InBev vet as first CMO—here is her plan

Mike Tyson’s cannabis brand has poached an Anheuser-Busch InBev digital specialist and e-commerce expert to serve as its first chief marketing officer. Jackie Northacker Guarini is joining the boxing legend’s pot startup, called Tyson 2.0, from Anheuser-Busch InBev. Guarini most recently served as the brewer’s U.S. head of commerce media, where she is credited with integrating shopper marketing, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer initiatives.

Guarini arrives as Tyson 2.0 looks to boost its marketing and commerce approach as it expands into multiple product lines. 

The brand was started in November and now counts sales in 13 states, with Canada coming online soon. It recently gained notoriety with the launch of ear-shaped marijuana edibles, called Mike Bites, a reference to when Iron Mike took a bite of Evander Holyfield’s ear 25 years ago. Tyson 2.0 recently filed a trademark for a range of products, including keychains, pillows, rolling papers, vape pens and more.

Adam Wilks, CEO of Tyson 2.0, in a statement called Guarini’s hire a “big moment “ for the brand. “We are thrilled to have her join us as we continue to expand our portfolio with game-changing products and marketing campaigns as we did with Mike Bites," Wilks said.

At AB InBev, Guarini oversaw social and programmatic partnerships, working with vendors including Google, Meta, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and The Trade Desk. She previously was digital media manager for the brewer’s Michelob Ultra brand. Before that, she worked at Adobe.

Guarini is leaving the world’s largest beer maker to join the cannabis startup after taking a “self-inventory,” she said in an interview. 

“With COVID happening, it really made me reflect on what was important to me,” Guarini said. She added that her life has “been really profoundly impacted in a positive way by plant medicine, both psychedelics and cannabis alike. I really do see the power of the use of cannabis from many, many different angles,” noting positive effects on mental and physical health and new economic opportunities the industry has brought as it becomes legalized.

“Tyson 2.0 has had an incredibly impressive distribution scale in cannabis in just seven months,” she said, adding that it is “a testament to the strength of the brand and also the human connection to Mike.”

Her goal is to help the brand open up new revenue opportunities, “not just thinking about cannabis… but thinking about how do we start building out a really solid merchandising program as well—hoodies, sweatshirts, hats, housewares, all of that good stuff.”

Also on the horizon are products related to Tyson 2.0’s majority acquisition in March of Ric Flair Drip, the business entity of pro wrestling legend Ric Flair. The deal gave Tyson 2.0 control of Flair's trademarks and intellectual properties for cannabis products.

Guarini suggested Flair-branded products would be launched in the coming weeks and “bring joy and nostalgia to fans across the country.” She also said Tyson would continue to expand its edibles lineup after the recent ear gummy launch, covering cookies, lollipops and chocolates. “We have a really wide and diverse audience which makes creating new products really super fun and I think has unlimited marketing potential for us,” she said.

One potential challenge for the brand is dealing with Tyson’s criminal past, especially among female consumers. Tyson in 1992 was found guilty of raping an 18-year-old beauty contestant. His first wife, Robin Givens, accused him of abuse. 

“It’s definitely something I have thought about but I have also thought about his rise and his energy that has changed so much,” Guarini said, noting that “Mike came from the depths of poverty and crime and systematic racism.

“I am not apologizing for his behavior but I think he did his time,” she added. “He doesn’t pass off what he did. He accepts it and he’s moved on with his life and now he is a changed man.”