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    Vizzy serves up pickleball sponsorship as niche sport grows

    • Molson Coors brand Vizzy is the first-ever official hard seltzer of the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) tour, according to a press release. 
    • The partnership includes marketing efforts with on-site, out-of-home (OOH), social media, retail and influencer marketing integrations. Molson Coors brands Miller Lite and Simply Spiked Lemonade, among others, will also be available at select PPA tournaments.
    • The partnership between the two entities reflects not only pickleball’s growing popularity, but also the ongoing attempt by mainstream brands to get in on more niche sport partnerships and alternative ways of reaching drinkers.

    As the first-ever official hard seltzer of the PPA tour, Vizzy will be taking an active role in the promotion of pickleball, which is considered to be the fastest growing sport in the U.S. In addition to hard seltzer, Molson Coors is also the official beer and flavored malt beverage partner of the organization. Such a move may allude to the desire to have a greater sports presence, as Molson Coors announced plans to return to Super Bowl advertising this year for the first time in 33 years.

    Pickleball, which currently boasts 4.8 million players, has seen massive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Invented in 1965 and described as a cross between badminton, ping-pong and tennis, it has seen an 11.5% average annual growth rate over the past five years, with a 21.3% growth rate from 2019 to 2020 alone. While most of the sports’ core players are over 65, the strongest growth is among players under the age of 55. This fast-growing younger demographic lends itself to trendy corporate sponsorships, such as hard seltzer and other malt beverages.

    The sponsorship between Vizzy and the PPA also reflects the brand’s efforts to integrate itself into a niche market as the hard seltzer industry is in flux. Once the star of beer alternatives, hard seltzer’s growth has slowed considerably as oversaturation and competition from alternative products grows. Some of the company’s non-alcoholic offerings such as ZOA Energy and ZenWTR alkaline water will also join the PPA’s existing lineup of alcohol-free beverages.

    While the big players in sports advertising remain basketball, football and baseball, more niche sports are seeing an advertising push as viewer fragmentation grows. While massively popular in the rest of the world, soccer has seen significant growth in interest among the U.S., especially across women’s teams. Other women-dominated sport leagues, such as the WNBA, have also seen new corporate sponsors join its ranks. Even more niche activities, such as esports, are seeing major backing by brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev. US Quadball, formally known as Quidditch, has also seen sponsorship interest and recently aired on national television for the first time.

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