Horizon’s sports arm bets on pickleball with tournament launch

    • Horizon Sports & Entertainment (HS&E) has partnered with InsideOut Sports & Entertainment and Hard Rock to create the 2023 Pickleball Slam, a tournament spotlighting the budding new sport, per details shared with Marketing Dive.
    • The event, slated for April 2 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, has a high-profile roster including tennis stars Andre Agassi, Micheal Chang, John McEnroe and Andy Roddick. The tournament will air exclusively on ESPN immediately preceding the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
    • The inaugural Pickleball Slam marks the beginning of a five-event partnership between HS&E, InsideOut and Hard Rock. HS&E, founded late last year, has made quick advancements in the sports industry, including a recent deal with NBA Entertainment to support the league’s global expansion.

    The multi-year partnership between Hard Rock and HS&E unites culture with sports, giving the agency a way to appeal to brands looking for marketing opportunities to engage pickleball fans as the sport continues to grow. HS&E’s areas of focus include experiential marketing and media capabilities in addition to sports.

    The tie-up between InsideOut, Hard Rock and HS&E is yet another affirmation that pickleball is perhaps worth betting on, with marketers like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors and Margaritaville having already made extensive investments of their own. And perhaps for good reason — aside from blue-chip brand participation, the sport has also been the subject of primetime special events and even appeared as a recreational activity for celebrities in television commercials.

    The four tennis stars named as contestants in the inaugural 2023 Pickleball Slam will compete for a $1 million dollar purse over the course of two singles matches and a final doubles match. Additionally, the marquee matchups will be preceded by an amateur challenge, which will include 96 doubles teams vying for a $10,000 prize and a chance to compete against two of the tennis champions in a match prior to the ESPN broadcasted event April 2.

    Marking the beginning of a partnership between HS&E, host Hard Rock and InsideOut, future tournaments will be held at various Hard Rock locations. Such a flashy event could help bolster HS&E’s reputation early in its lifespan, though it has already locked in other big-name partnerships such as with NBA Entertainment. Tickets to attend the 2023 Pickleball Slam will go on sale Feb. 10. 

    Associating with pickleball early could help the three companies secure future high-profile partnerships. Described as a cross between tennis, ping pong and badminton, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the sport has attracted 4.8 million players and grown 40% between 2019 and 2022. 


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