- Walmart wants to make pickleball more accessible for its customers and employees as the racket sport continues to gain steam, according to a corporate blog post.
- The big-box store has teamed with Break the Love, a racket sports booking platform, to offer 125,000 comped reservations at pickleball venues across the U.S. The perk is open to Walmart customers, members of its Walmart+ membership program and store associates.
- Bookings are available through a dedicated website, as is a curated selection of pickleball gear. Short-form videos, including beginner tips, and 25 planned community events round out the effort to capitalize on fast-growing interest in the sport.
Walmart wants to build a positive association with pickleball amid a surge in popularity for the racket sport. The company and Break the Love in the announcement described pickleball as having a “country club barrier,” creating the image of an activity reserved for the elite. Providing free court bookings, along with additional content and merchandise, seeks to make the sport more accessible for both shoppers and store associates and could foster stronger brand affinity with the big-box store.
In a broader sense, pickleball has extended well beyond its country club roots to become the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. for three years running, according to industry reports. Brand sponsors have flocked to leagues and teams to get in on the action and diversify their sports marketing portfolios.
Estimates from the Association of Pickleball Professionals indicate more than 36 million people played pickleball in the U.S. between August 2021 and August 2022. Separate findings from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association state there are now about 8.9 million players aged six and up in the country.
Underutilized tennis courts are being turned into pickleball courts in large cities to meet climbing demand. Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park recently partnered with CityPickle to offer over a dozen courts to play on in the warmer seasons. Reservations start at $10 per person.
Walmart and Break the Love’s program promises to cover a wide swath of the country and over 100,000 bookings. Consumers may appreciate the comped reservations as sustained inflation makes leisure activities a heavier cost burden. Bookings are opened by taking a screenshot of a recent Walmart receipt or Walmart+ membership hub page and uploading the image at checkout.
While Walmart is promoting the pickleball initiative to all shoppers, the move could help drive interest in its membership service and e-commerce sales. Walmart+ customers will receive first dibs on peak reservation times, exclusive access to co-branded gear and the chance to meet professional athletes. The collaboration also shows Walmart experimenting more with short-form digital video in the form of demos, tips and tricks and inspirational content.
Walmart has added a greater number of perks to Walmart+ as it seeks to attract more users and stay competitive with chief rival Amazon Prime. An ad-supported version of Paramount+ started being bundled with the subscription plan last year and factors into a recent TV advertising campaign.