Digital Marketing Redux   //   May 20, 2024

Padel is quickly becoming the new go-to sport for brand collaborations

Move over pickleball, there’s a new luxury racket sport on the scene. 

Padel has risen the ranks to become the latest posh sport. Naturally, luxury brands are clamoring to get in on the fun. In 2023, sportswear companies like Adidas released professional padel gear. Last year, designer brands like Prada and Versace released branded padel racquets, retailing at $2,250 and $1,500, respectively. Earlier this year Valentino unveiled a takeover of a court in Dubai.

Pickleball and padel ball can often be confused, but they do have several differences. For instance, pickleball is played on a 44 by 20 feet court with a net in the middle. Meanwhile, padel is played on a bigger, enclosed court that has walls that are similar to a squash court. The equipment also differs, with pickleball using a solid paddle and a perforated plastic ball. On the other hand, padel ball uses a solid racket and a depressurized tennis ball.

Padel is skyrocketing in popularity, both in professional leagues and recreationally, especially among affluent crowds. Recently, celeb athletes like Lionel Messi and Serena Williams have been spotted trying out padel on the court.

As it gains popularity in the U.S., padel clubs and teams are trying to set themselves apart from pickleball by emphasizing the sport’s European flair and affinity with designer brands. Padel’s popularity has soared in countries like Argentina and Spain, where it’s the second most popular sport behind soccer. It also continues to grow across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. According to the International Padel Federation, padel is currently played by over 25 million players in more than 110 countries. Per Deloitte, the number of padel courts worldwide is projected to reach 85,000 by 2026. To get in early, fashion and lifestyle brands are working closely with teams to create branded merchandise and splashy courtside pop-ups.

Bezel, a marketplace for authenticated luxury watches, is one of the latest companies betting big on padel, America’s hottest new sport. The startup has signed on as an official sponsor of New York Atlantics, a professional padel team that was founded in 2023. Along with a uniform logo sponsorship, Bezel is setting up a display of curated watches during the championship tournaments throughout 2024.

Bezel’s resale platform launched in 2022 and has since secured $10 million in venture capital, including from investors like John Legend, Kevin Hart and J Balvin. 

Bezel’s vice president of growth, Mike Shoiock, told Modern Retail that the online-only company has been hosting padel events to give existing and potential clients a physical place to meet VIP reps. 

New York specifically is Bezel’s largest market, so it made sense to start by partnering with the city’s newly-formed padel team. “We started looking at how it’s coming to life in Europe, it really got exciting for us,” Shoiock said. Bezel was inspired by the courtside branding and player ambassadorships that luxury brands like Richard Mille and Prada have done recently. 

The biggest opportunity for Bezel, Shoiock said, is the ability to reach high-income urban dwellers. Bezel’s average order value is about $10,000, Shoiock said, so the company is focused on reaching specific shoppers who would be interested in collectible timepieces. 

With Bezel’s branding splashed on jerseys and the surrounding court, Shoiock said the company can also reach at-home viewers through streaming. “It also allows us to do a small pop-up during the two-week tournaments, which is what we did in Miami,” Shoiock said. “We saw our home market sponsorship as a way to start, then potentially expand more into the sport.” 

Padel in the U.S. is expected to continue attracting brands looking for fresh ways to create campaigns.

Mike Dorfman, chairman of the executive committee at the Pro Padel League and owner of the New York Atlantics, told Modern Retail the league began getting interest from brand advertisers soon after it was established last year. 

Because it’s expensive to play in big cities like New York and Miami, Dorfman said padel’s participants are largely wealthier people. Court rental can cost up to $100 per person, which can quickly add up depending on the number of players in the group.  “Padel is interesting in that it has an aspirational luxury look and feel, with grass turf and glass,” Dorfman said. “At the same time, padel doesn’t have the historical attachment of exclusionary, WASP-y country clubs that are inaccessible.”

Dorfman added that while the pandemic helped push padel into the mainstream in America, social media has also played a part. “It’s a super viral sport,” he said of game clips being shared on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

Some of the Pro Padel League’s sponsorships include Adidas, which signed on in April as part of a partnership with the court supplier, AFP Courts. Other corporate sponsors include Spindrift, Estrella Damm beer and Tequila Commissario.

Fast growth is expected from here, Dorfman said, adding that in the few short years since he came across padel as an activity, countless courts have popped up across the country. “We’re a blank slate and not beholden to existing structure,” Dorfman said. “So our goal is to grow exposure of the game as widely and fast as possible.”

For brands, the most exciting aspect is getting in on the ground floor. “We’re an emerging brand ourselves, so padel is a way to tie ourselves to another emerging brand,” Shoiock said. “We can grow together in that space.”