Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S., is gaining attention from some major financial backers.
- In 2021, pickleball had 4.8 million players in the U.S., a 39% increase from 2019.
- Last year, Major League Pickleball was founded—and it’s growing fast.
- By 2023, the league expects to have 16 total teams. That’s 12 more than this year.
- Professional athletes—both current and former—are beginning to show interest in this newly popular sport.
Why it’s news
While Major League Pickleball has not disclosed the details of various deals made with investors, The Wall Street Journal has reported that several of the pickleball teams are valued in the seven-figure range—that is millions of dollars.
Professional athletes looking to expand their portfolios have been among the first investors in the sport. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently invested.
Basketball star LeBron James bought a team in September along with current basketball player Draymond Green. Super Bowl champ Tom Brady and tennis star Kim Clijsters have also invested in a team together.
Even outside of the sports world, investors are beginning to take a look at pickleball. Hedge fund manager Marc Lasry recently invested in a pickleball team alongside tennis player James Blake.
Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, stood out with its investment as the first Fortune 500 company to buy a pickleball team.
As interest in the sport picks up, members of Major League Pickleball will be expected to play in six tournaments taking place in six major U.S. cities. The cash prizes involved in these tournaments will be more than $2 million.
Backing up a bit
A super-fast-growing sport offers professionals the opportunity to stay active while building their professional network.
Pickleball serves a popular mode of introduction and networking. As only four players can play at a time, other teams have plenty of time for discussion on the sidelines.
If a player comes without a partner, the sport will naturally guide teammates to become acquaintances.
As a popular, trendy sport, mentioning a game of pickleball may make someone more likely to join a networking event. Consulting company NOW CFO, for example, is planning networking pickleball parties in Colorado in November.