Beyond the Buzz
Opportunities abound on the court, at retail, and beyond.
Beyond the Buzz
Opportunities abound on the court, at retail, and beyond.
In recent years, pickleball has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States and around the world. Combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, this paddle sport has captured the hearts of people of all ages, attracting both seasoned athletes and recreational players. Participation nearly doubled in 2022, increasing by 85.7% year-over-year and by 158.6% over three years according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. As the pickleball craze continues to spread, here is an inside look from a marketing professional that has been inside the pickleball boom, sharing insights within the ever-growing landscape.
Pickleball was initially invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island, Washington, as a means to entertain their children. Little did they know that their creation would evolve into a global sensation several decades later. The sport’s appeal lies in its accessibility and inclusivity. It can be enjoyed by people of all fitness levels and ages, making it an excellent choice for families, retirees, and fitness enthusiasts alike. Naturally, with interest and participation in pickleball growing and gaining momentum, so too are a myriad of opportunities — on the court, at retail, and beyond.
Buzzworthy Business Opportunities
As pickleball gains popularity, so does the demand for equipment. From paddles to balls, nets, and court surfaces, there is a growing market for high-quality pickleball gear and it’s getting more competitive by the day. USA Pickleball, the National Governing Body for the sport, reported there were more than 500 paddles approved in the past year. Manufacturers are jumping at the chance to be the brands leading the way for both high performance and recreational paddles.
With the rise in pickleball participation, players are looking for stylish and functional apparel to wear on the court. Pickleball-specific clothing lines, including performance shirts, shorts, hats, socks and shoes, present a lucrative business opportunity for entrepreneurs with a sense of fashion and sportswear design. This is a market that isn’t yet dominated by just one brand. There is an opportunity to go beyond tennis apparel and create a brand that is specific for the competitive, yet casual, sport that is pickleball.
The increasing number of pickleball enthusiasts— with now more than 48 million Americans having played pickleball, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) — calls for more places to play. These facilities can range from standalone pickleball courts to multi-sport complexes that offer various recreational activities. With the growing number of professional tournaments, there is a need for large facilities with dedicated pickleball courts to accommodate more than 1,000 players registering for these events. In addition, to keep up with the demand of the growing number of recreational players, the “eatertainment” concept is exploding with pickleball social clubs, like Rally Pickleball, Pickle & Social and The Sports Haus to feature indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, food and beverage and social areas to entertain enthusiasts of all ages.
Pickleball Coaching and Training
As players strive to improve their skills, the demand for professional coaching and training programs is on the rise. This presents an opportunity for professional pickleball players to build full-time careers by offering nationwide pickleball clinics, private lessons at resorts and clubs, and representing sponsors at events.
Pickleball Tournaments and Events
The number of pickleball tournaments and events continues to grow each year. Professional pickleball leagues, such as the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour, Association of Pickleball Players (APP) Tour, Major League Pickleball, PBX Pickleball, Pickle4, and National Pickleball League, attract players, spectators, and sponsors, creating various revenue streams through registration fees, ticket sales, and sponsorships. The involvement of celebrities in leagues like Major League Pickleball and PBX Pickleball further boosts player participation.
Pickleball Travel and Tourism
As the founder of Pickleball in the Sun, an experiential pickleball marketing agency and lifestyle brand sharing the best pickleball destinations and experiences, this one is a big one for me! With pickleball enthusiasts always on the lookout for new destinations to play, resorts, hotels and cruise ships are adding dedicated pickleball courts to attract pickleball enthusiasts of all ages. Again, with more than 44 million Americans playing pickleball, many of them are seeking pickleball-themed travel packages, which include accommodation, sightseeing, and access to local pickleball courts, to make for the perfect sporty getaway.
Be sure to follow @PickleballintheSun as we share our recommended “Premier Pickleball in the Sun Destinations” and make it easy for you to find these destinations through our partnership with the PicklePlay app.
Pickleball in the Media
I was fortunate enough to lead the media relations for USA Pickleball for nearly three years, and during that time, it was the first time I experienced media outlets continuously reaching out to us for story leads, instead of us needing to pitch them, as all media outlets wanted the pickleball trend in their content library. Today, there are pickleball media dedicated outlets such as Pickleball Magazine, The Pickler, The Dink, Pickleball Union, and others in development! National media outlets are also covering the sport more frequently, writing about the best pickleball equipment and accessories out there, and covering the sport’s emergence nationally and in local communities. And major networks such as ESPN have incorporated professional pickleball competitions into their broadcast scheduling, bringing the sport to even more eyes.
Pickleball at Retail
If you’ve walked into a boutique shop recently, you’ve probably seen at least one product on the shelves dedicated to the pickleball enthusiast. You can also find pickleball gear at big box stores like Walmart or Dick’s, and even at some local run specialty shops. From sporting goods stores, to dedicated pickleball retail shops and online retailers, to boutiques, to resort pro shops, retail stores are partnering with the leading brands in the game to sell their products at prime spots.
Pickleball’s surging popularity is just in the beginning stages. With its inclusive nature and the sense of community it fosters, pickleball is more than just a sport—it’s a lifestyle that continues to draw in new players and create exciting opportunities for business-minded individuals. It’s an honor to be a part of this growth and to get to work with many brands that are looking to break through the competition and get the attention of the broad demographics of individuals getting obsessed with the sport.
About Pickleball in the Sun
Laura Gainor is the founder of Pickleball in the Sun, an experiential pickleball marketing agency specializing in driving awareness for brands and organizations involved in the sport of pickleball, featuring premier Pickleball in the Sun destinations and experiences around the world. The agency is a leader in strategic thinking in experiential marketing for events and tournaments, having worked with a number of celebrities, pro sports leagues and brands in planning and executing successful events.