Pickleball Scores with Licensed Collaborations
As pickleball continues to grow in popularity, collaborations are increasingly coming into play for the sport.
These collaborations may appeal to the sport’s devotees, to fans of the brand involved, or both. And they are often limited time offers designed to contribute to marketing efforts as much as retail sales.
For example, Pickleball equipment startup Nettie recently launched a Hamilton-branded paddle in a National Pickleball Day promotion. That collaboration came after Nettie, known for its multi-colored paddles, introduced a co-branded model with Sanzo, a sparkling water label. And earlier this year Conagra Brands’ Vlasic Pickles teamed up with accessories company Sprints for paddles, hats, visors, and mini-towels featuring Vlasic’s stork character Jovny.
In addition to these limited time offers, paddle supplier Baddle has inked longer-term deals with the NHL and Vera Bradley. Selkirk partnered with AvaLee, a brand developed by sisters-in-law Lauren Bethany Barnes and Lauren Arlyne Barnes, and billed the offering as Pickleball’s first paddles and performance wear designed specifically for women.
“Pickleball is a huge white space and the landscape for licensing in it is still building,” said Alita Friedman, a pickleball player and founder of the Alita’s Brand Bar agency. “But these types of promotions are designed to get people interested in the sport and play as much for fans of a given brand.”
Retail interest is also building. Dick’s Sporting Goods—which carries Nettie’s non-licensed paddles in 81 stores—had a wall in its Danbury, CT store covered with 37 paddles featuring brands like Nettie, Head, Franklin, and Selkirk. Free People and Sak’s Fifth Avenue also sell Nettie gear.
And like any sport with higher priced gear—the most sought-after paddles retail for $150 and up—Pickleball is also attracting fashion labels. London’s Varley recently introduced its Club Collection featuring pleated court dresses, skorts, and knitwear, which became a top seller four months after launch.
“Pickleball doesn’t have the same heritage as tennis, so there aren’t so many spoken and unspoken rules,” Varley Co-Founder Lara Mead said. “It’s fun and social, and you can see that in the way people dress when they play.”
In fact, according to Sydney Steinaker, a Pickleball player who regularly posts her outfits to more than 50,000 followers on TikTok, Pickleball enthusiasts push the limits of fashion much more than those participating in other court sports. “There’s always lots of neon colors and I’ve even seen players wear tutu skirts with knee-high socks on the court.”
What pickleball may lack in heritage, it is making up in popularity. There were 8.9 million players in the U.S. in 2022 (an 86% increase from the year before), the largest percentage of which were 18 to 34 years old, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. And Pickleball England expects to have 25,000 members by 2025.
All of those players need somewhere to compete—more than 11,000 venues registered with USA Pickleball and there are 200 venues in the U.K. Among those venues were cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Carnival; Camp Pickle, which features multiple courts and is opening locations in Centennial, CO and Huntsville, AL; and Nike Pickleball Camps that are operated by licensee U.S. Sports Camps.