The Pickleball Revolution: Celebrity Tournaments, Pro Leagues and Huge Branding Opportunities
Pickleball is sweeping the nation. The strange blend of tennis and ping-pong is accessible for just about anyone to play, so it's not a huge surprise. But, when was the last time you saw a new sport gain so much traction?
NPR reported earlier this year that 4.8 million people in the U.S. are playing pickleball.
With that popularity comes the opportunity for promotional branding in the health and wellness space, in addition to new leagues and tournaments popping up that are looking for official products.
According to Yahoo Finance, the global pickleball apparel market will see incremental growth of $680.29 million at a CAGR of 11.78% over the next four years. The study estimates that 71% of that growth will come from North America alone.
We're not sure what exactly made pickleball jump in popularity so much over the last few years, but it's unavoidable now. You probably have at least one friend who bugs you every weekend to come over and try it out with them. It feels like a backyard barbecue game, but could also elevate itself to being an Olympic sport. It's something anyone can play with minimal equipment, making it highly marketable as a sports or outdoors promotion.
It's even becoming a televised event on its own now. NBA star Kevin Durant just invested in a Major League Pickleball team (which apparently is a thing).
BREAKING: Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman's 35V has purchased a Major League Pickleball team.
The expansion team will begin play in 2023, as MLP grows from 12 to 16 teams.
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) October 20, 2022
And Stephen Colbert hosting is a celebrity tournament on CBS. The "Pickled" event will culminate in one celebrity, like Will Ferrell, Luis Guzman, Emma Watson or Kelly Rowland, hoisting the "Colbert Cup," with proceeds going toward Comic Relief.
CBS announced today the 16 celebrities competing in the new, two-hour sports comedy special PICKLED. The pickleball tournament, produced by Stephen Colbert’s Spartina, Funny Or Die and CBS Studios, will air Thursday, Nov. 17 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS https://t.co/wHoBWwst6L pic.twitter.com/nrO4GeJroA
— CBS Tweet (@CBSTweet) October 12, 2022
"If you love pickleball and you love celebrities and you love helping people, you're going to love watching these celebrities help people by playing pickleball," Colbert said, according to Variety.
Looking at that one-time televised event alone, there are countless branding opportunities. The contestants will no doubt wear some sort of "Pickled" apparel. Maybe they'll use "Pickled" towels during breaks in the action. I'm sure there will be officials on site wearing some sort of branded apparel.
Interviews and analysis will take place in the Claussen Crunch Time-Halftime Show, sponsored by Claussen Pickles and featuring all sorts of branding within the camera's view. Players will also cool off in a courtside lounge sponsored by Oofos Active Recovery.
And that says nothing about what fans will get to buy on site, or what they might get for free.
"As the popularity of pickleball continues to rise, the opportunity to partner with CBS and Stephen Colbert for the 'Pickled' TV special was presented to us, and the decision was a no-brainer," Lizzy Godoman, brand manager of Claussen, told Variety.
"'Pickled' is a unique special for CBS, and we were glad to be able to work creatively with Claussen and Oofos to develop bespoke activations that brought both brands to life in-show," Linda Rene, executive vice president of primetime sales, entertainment innovation and partnerships at CBS, told Variety. "They were a perfect match for this show, and we love having them as part of it."
This is a huge branding event for multiple companies, and it's all based around pickleball, which many of us might've dismissed for a passing fad. Maybe it is a fad. Maybe in 10 years we'll laugh about how the country was wrapped up in what is basically life-sized ping-pong.
But, right now, pickleball commands your attention. And anything that's getting attention comes with the opportunity for promotional branding. The NHL is already doing it. Others will surely follow suit.
And when your local recreational sports organization says they want pickleball apparel, or your local high school wants branded paddles for a fundraising event, will you know how to answer them? The answer at least not be "What the heck is a pickleball?"