Can pickleball go designer?
DALLAS, TX - More and more brands are releasing their own pickleball paddles and aesthetically pleasing covers.
From boutique small businesses to big names, it seems like everyone wants to get involved in the fastest-growing sport in America.
Louis Vuitton was the first luxury brand to get involved in the picklesphere, and the reception was far from positive.
Featured in a bright yellow trunk, the set comes with four paddles, six pickleballs, a monogrammed net, and a carrying case for the net. Every item is covered in the LV Monogram, except for the pickleballs.
Louis Vuitton has a history of associating with professional sports. In 2020, they announced a multi-year partnership with the NBA for a limited edition NBA capsule collection. Every season, Louis Vuitton expands their NBA collection that now includes wallets, bags, clothes, and jewelry, and every new item is flying off the shelf.
But, pickleball did not enjoy the same success.
The limited edition Louis Vuitton set cost $100,000, making it the most expensive pickleball set in the world.
This was not the Louis Vuitton's first attempt at luxury sports gear. In 2019, the company released a ping pong set priced at $2,280 that is still on the market. The set comes with two table tennis rackets, two LV monogrammed paddle covers, and a holder for four ping pong balls. Two LV ping pong tables are even featured on their website.
Pickleball players immediately questioned the quality of the paddles, especially with how much they cost, and considering that they’re not USA Pickleball certified.
Players were also quick to criticize Louis Vuitton's intentions with releasing paddles. The cost simply doesn’t match the overall culture of the sport. Pickleball is generally inexpensive so completely contradicted that concept.
And let’s face it, pickleball doesn’t have the quiet luxury sense of style that tennis does, nor does it have that longstanding history like the NBA.
Louis Vuitton wasn’t the only pickleball fail. Tommy Bahama received some flack after selling a wooden pickleball paddle set in June 2023. Though pickleball originated with wooden paddles, those were extremely outdated. It raised the question: Did anyone on the Tommy Bahama product development team play pickleball at any point in time?
Nevertheless, they’ve since launched this paddle with a polypropylene core - and it’s USA Pickleball approved.
Some companies took a different approach by partnering up with previously established paddle brands. A good example is Lily Pulitzer collaborating with Recess Pickleball to create an aesthetically pleasing design that customers love, while maintaining good paddle quality.
Department stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue chose to enter the pickleball paddle industry by selling previously established and reliable paddle brands on their sites, like Macy’s working with Franklin and Saks Fifth Avenue working with Rokne Pickleball.
Those brands did it right. By partnering and collaborating with established, reliable brands, customers have a bit more trust and confidence in the quality of product they’re buying.
Pickleball Facebook Forum commenter Dennis Poppe said: “Anyone that can afford the Louis Vuitton set most likely is not concerned about the longevity of the equipment. More a collectible – sort of like an expensive piece of art.”
I don’t think this will be the last attempt at luxury pickleball, and I certainly believe there’s a gap in the market for it. Louis Vuitton should partner with JOOLA or Selkirk. Take your pick of a quality paddle that’s approved by the pros, and elevate the sport to luxury status.
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