October 8, 2021

Pickleball - The USA’s Fastest Growing Sport

In mid-September, 2021, Red Knot helped launch Major League Pickleball in Austin, Texas. The first major league born in Austin, MLP (as it’s immediately becoming known), is an elite pickleball league competition that will see 32 players competing in eight teams of four, two women, two men per team, in MLP Season One from November 5-8, 2021, at Dreamland, Dripping Springs, Texas

The first question some readers of this article might immediately ask is, “pickleball? What’s pickleball?”

There’s a couple of ways to answer that.

Firstly, the straight facts. Pickleball is best described as a mix between tennis, ping pong and badminton. The sport is played by women and men in doubles, mixed doubles and singles, with paddles and a hard plastic ball on a cutdown-sized tennis court. It’s easier to pick up than tennis, it moves from a slow, deliberate game to fast-paced, frenetic action in the blink of an eye, and it can be played indoors or outdoors.

Next, some more facts, this time about why it’s worth taking note of pickleball.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. Don’t take our word for that, that is straight from The Economist which, in January, 2021, published an article headlined “Pickleball Is The Fastest Growing Sport in America”. The article delves into a sport that started in 1963 and which has been enjoying a meteoric rise in the U.S. sports landscape since 2013. Back in ’13, USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, had 4,000 members. Now, in 2021, the first year of MLP, that membership number has grown to 40,000, a 1,000% increase in just eight years, and Pro Pickleball is now broadcast nationally on ESPN, CBS Sports and The Tennis Channel (among others), and is racking up millions of views, likes, shares and followers on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

Major League Pickleball is bringing a unique new team competition to the sport, think Ryder Cup and you’re close to the mark. Season One of MLP will take place in November, having launched in September, and staged its first-ever draft in October.

Red Knot has been working with the MLP leadership team to help launch the league, and manage MLP’s PR, social media, event production and the communication of its brand marketing. With detailed knowledge of the Austin media market, Red Knot was well-placed to help produce the MLP launch, just outside Austin, and Red Knot’s national media links helped place an MLP launch feature in Sports Business Journal on the day of the launch. That SBJ article included interviews with Marc Lasry, co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, and fellow MLP team owner James Blake, the U.S. ex-tennis pro and now ESPN commentator.

Keep an eye on pickleball as it continues to grow across the USA and internationally. Discussions about an Olympic push have already started, and with new fans and sponsors coming into the sport every day, the future for pickleball is very bright.