As ever-growing legions of fans get into the swing of padel and pickleball, savvy sponsors and investors–including a who’s-who of pro athletes and boldface names–are racing to grab a piece of the action.
Popular in Spain and parts of Latin America for over 50 years, padel–the world’s fastest-growing sport–is now blazing a trail around the globe, with 30 new padel clubs/organizations and 100 new courts opening every week, according to Deloitte.
The World Padel Tour began on February 18th in Abu Dhabi and will run through year’s end, with 27 Open and Master events across 14 countries–the most ever–including Chile, Finland, Germany, Mexico, and Paraguay, amongst others. Fittingly, it will be the most international tour yet, reflecting Padel’s seemingly unstoppable momentum.
On February 17th, Spanish nutrition brand HSN was announced as a tour sponsor, joining returning sponsors Adeslas, Cupra, Estrella Damm, Maxcolchon, and Nox, amongst others.
As reported in our 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review, Gianluca Vacchi, Andy Murray, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Zinedine Zidane have invested in padel clubs, helping to keep the sport squarely in the headlines. Not surprisingly, social media also continues to play a crucial role in fueling interest in padel and engaging new fans: the World Padel Tour saw social media growth of 18% YoY, to more than 2M followers currently across all platforms.
Meanwhile, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, with 4.8M players nationwide–a nearly 40% increase since 2020. At this pace, there will be more than 9M Americans swinging a pickleball paddle in 2025.
Major League Pickleball kicked off its season at the end of January, with its next event slated for March 23-26 in Daytona, Florida. In December, MLP sent shockwaves through the sport when it merged with rival Professional Pickleball Association’s newly formed VIBE Pickleball League, whose first team owner is Mark Cuban. The surprise move allowed MLP to expand to 24 teams this year (from 8 in 2021), with six events scheduled for 2023. The news followed the announcement days earlier that Jimmy Buffett’s casual dining chain, Margaritaville, would become MLP’s title sponsor– branding the league as “MLP by Margaritaville”–marking one of its largest commercial deals to date. Michelob Ultra, Cirkul, and Ora Organic are also league sponsors.
MLP investors include Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Drew Brees, Heidi Klum, and Eva Longoria, among dozens of others. In late January, MLP announced that the Tennis Channel will be broadcasting the league's events on cable television throughout the season.
PPA, sponsored by Carvana, will continue its individual-competition operations with two monthly events, having commenced its season on January 12th. The 2023 Carvana PPA Tour tour will boast the largest-ever professional pickleball single-season prize money purse of $5.5M, and be the first professional tour to host 25 events in a single season. Other PPA sponsors include Molson Coors’ Vizzy Hard Seltzer, FILA, OGIO, Holland America, and Baird, among others.
As the season heats up and pickleball fever spreads unabated nationwide, watch this space for news of other non-endemic sponsors jumping on the pickleball bandwagon.