Everything You Need to Know About Who's Winning in the D2C Pickleball Space
This report is a competitive digital analysis of 5 brands in the D2C pickleball space.
We’ll highlight key metrics for each competitor across the digital landscape, then make a comparison to determine which brands are winning and lagging in each area.
Once the winners are determined, we’ll dig into specifics on why they’re winning. This will help us surface actionable insights.
Finally, we’ll highlight suggestions of further research that RightMetric could provide to uncover more specific opportunities to fuel digital growth for your brand.
Key Takeaways: Recommended Actions
In this section we summarize the most important key takeaways and actionable recommendations from the Competitor Snapshot Report™.
All brands in the competitive set saw an average of +194% YoY traffic growth.
Now is the perfect time to leverage the pickleball space as all competitors have captured significant growth regardless of their strategies.
Competitors are not reaching the 18-24 year olds (Gen Z), but they represent 18% of pickleball players in the US.
(i) Encourage continued pickleball participation for younger audiences to capture the audience whitespace.
(ii) Focus on a family and friend approach. Pickleball is a great use of free time for younger people but also is an activity that can be played by all ages (a great family activity), but no one is pushing that narrative.
Recess Pickleball spent the most on digital ads at $385K followed by Selkirk ($170K) and Gamma Sports ($26K).
(i) There is a lower spend on average during July and August, leverage that as a summer period when the Gen Z audience isn’t in school & needs things to do.
(ii) Consider advertising on TikTok and Snapchat, platforms that have little investment by competitors and strong reach to younger audiences.
Selkirk is leading in Paid Search spend, at $171K followed by Recess Pickleball ($51K) and Gamma Sports ($19K).
(i) Use branded keywords for search ads and non-branded for product ads, rank for keywords that discuss things to do during the summer or ways to spend quality time with family & friends.
(ii) Younger audiences are family driven, use ad copy to introduce your brand pillars and differentiators (made in the USA, family-owned).
(iii) Speak directly to who you want to sell to in your ad copy (i.e. advanced pickleball paddles).
Selkirk leverages a long-term partnership with pickleball publication “The Dink” while Recess Pickleball partners with unrelated companies.
(i) Sponsor young athletes or social creators as a lower barrier to entry to reach Gen Z, who might just be looking for something to do.
(i) Host giveaways and activations with partners that are popular with the Gen Z community, even if they aren’t related to pickleball.
(ii) Implement a publicity strategy that works with media outlets setting trends for younger audiences in suggesting how they spend their time and what they should get into for the summer.
Selkirk has the ultimate content strategy with 150K organic search visits and 11M social media views.
(i) For reach, prioritize Instagram and leverage the collaborative post feature. Work with creators to host content that explores their journey with pickleball and have it posted on both their page and yours.
(ii) Brands haven’t mastered TikTok yet, raise awareness on the platform with consistent posts.
Selkirk is the only brand doing email marketing, generating 12K in traffic, making it a whitespace amongst competitors.
(i) Provide value in a way that is holistic for the Gen Z community. Offer resources on how to become a better pickleball player but also consider creating “ideal day” schedules and examples of activities younger people can spend their day doing (ie. pickleball in the morning, then brunch).
(ii) Figure out what the Gen Z community wants from pickleball products, from them. Use emails to ask the audience directly what they want and offer entry into a giveaway in return.
Key Takeaways: Winning Positioning & Gaps
What are the main ways winning competitors are positioning themselves in the pickleball world?
This section takes our high-level learnings of cross-brand strategies and pulls together key tactics that are reaching specific audiences and potential personas while identifying any gaps that aren’t being addressed.
(i) There’s audience whitespace with Gen Z that isn’t being targeted as much by competitors, yet demonstrate demand for pickleball.
(ii) Prioritize messaging that intrigues younger audiences to take up the sport as a leisurely activity, and provide resources to help improve performance but also show how it can be part of a bigger lifestyle routine.
When analyzing competitor traffic, we look for growth spikes.
Once we detect a brand significantly outpacing competitors’ growth, that’s our clue to dig into all that brand’s digital activities to determine which strategies and tactics fuelled the growth. Then distill that into repeatable learnings for you to apply to your brand.
Selkirk leads in traffic volume but all brands have been growing at an average of 194% YoY.
Selkirk is the clear winner from this competitive set in terms of traffic volume, with 1.7M visits in the past 12 months and 208% YoY traffic growth. However, Recess Pickleball saw the largest growth. They’ve grown traffic by 223% over the past twelve months, increasing from 96K yearly visits to 311K yearly visits.
Gamma Sports, CRBN Pickleball and Prokennex have generated 486K, 260K and 174K respectively from July 2022 to June 2023.
Incentivize pickleball playing year-round. Only a few brands have seen spikes in traffic starting in September into the winter.
As a whole, the competitive set naturally sees elevated website traffic during the Spring and Summer months.
Selkirk and Gamma Sports both saw an increase in traffic in September 2022. Selkirk was able to leverage the growth into the wintertime.
Explore collaboration opportunities with indoor pickleball courts in different regions to push year-round playing.
When analyzing advertising data, we look at absolute spend volumes to identify winners. Then, we narrow down to each brand and examine spikes in advertising spend and social traffic.
Once we identify which brands are investing significantly in advertising, we look at which platforms they are focusing their efforts on and the top-performing creatives on each platform. Analyzing top-performing creatives allow us to extract effective advertising tactics that are being utilized by your competitors.
Advertising Spend (United States)
Recess Pickleball is the leading spender compared to the rest of the competitive set*.
Over the past year, Recess Pickleball has spent the most in the competitive set at $385K, followed by Selkirk at $170K. The remainder of the competitive set spends an average of $19K.
*Advertising Spend (US) data for CRBN Pickleball is currently unavailable.
Advertising Spend (United States)
Focus on Facebook and Instagram while experimenting elsewhere.
Recess Pickleball, Selkirk and Prokennex have all focused their digital advertising spends on Instagram and Facebook. Recess Pickleball is the only brand experimenting on TikTok.
Gamma Sports has the most diversified strategy focusing on Facebook, Mobile & Desktop Display and YouTube ads.
Demographic data shows that this competitive set is missing out on 18-24 year old audience members, this could be due to a lack of visibility on younger platforms like TikTok and Snapchat.
*Advertising Spend (US) data for CRBN Pickleball is currently unavailable.
Seasonal Trends (United States)
No one is leveraging the end of the Summer period from July to August. December, March and May are spend increase periods for brands.
Recess Pickleball saw a major spike in ad spend in December 2022, their top spend in this period focused on this Facebook ad incentivizing viewers to get into playing Pickleball. Selkirk has been gradually increasing their advertising spend since November 2022, with spikes in March and May 2023.
Continue to incentivize year-round playing by upping ad spend at the end of summer periods.
*Seasonal Trend (US) data for CRBN Pickleball is currently unavailable.
Give people a reason to play pickleball.
Recess Pickleball ran a Facebook ad with the message of supporting a dog charity with the purchase of a pickleball paddle.
The main message masks the purchase of a Recess paddle with the intention of trying to convince viewers to start playing the game.
Spend $20K | Impressions 2.7M| CPM $7.3
Mix a social cause with messaging to reach people with similar values.
Recess Pickleball runs more editorial-type ads that feature posted models holding their product on a court.
The images are clean with complementary colours.
The description boasts how the paddles are designed in Austin.
Paid Search Spend (Global)
There’s an opportunity to compete on Paid Search, Selkirk is the only competitor spending significantly.
Selkirk is spending the most on paid search, with a total spend of $171K in the past years. Paid Search follows a similar seasonal pattern as the other digital advertising platforms, with spikes in spend around December, March and May.
Recess Pickleball is spending $51K. Gamma Sports and Prokennex spend $19K and $11K respectively, while CRBN Pickleball does not invest in this platform.
Paid Search Traffic
Selkirk’s search strategy translated into 120K in Paid Search traffic, maintaining them as a leader in this department.
While it seems like Recess Pickleball has a stronger strategy than Gamma Sports, they spent 165% more than Gamma Sports but only generated 88% more traffic.
Recess Pickleball generated 30K in Paid Search traffic, roughly $1.7 CPC, while Gamma Sports generated 16K in Paid Search traffic, roughly $1.2 CPC.
Paid Search Creatives: Selkirk
Selkirk’s paid search strategy leads with a patriotic, family-run narrative.
Top paid search ads for Selkirk in June 2023 use the following tactics:
- Highlight USA manufacturing as a top benefit
- Emphasize being a family-owned company focused on customer service
- Advertise a pickleball “one-stop-shop”, easing the process for newcomers
Top performing search ads for June feature a fully-branded keyword strategy.
- selkirk paddles
- selkirk pickleball paddle
- selkirk paddle
- selkirk labs
Landing pages for these ads either directed to a paddle collection landing page or the homepage.
Top Performing Ads
Paid Search Creatives: Selkirk
Focus on higher price-point paddles for product search ads.
- Selkirk’s top product search ads focus on their $200-250 paddle offerings over their $100-150 offerings.
- Go heavy on the keyword strategy for product ads, the top three ads see about 100-300 ranking keywords.
- Target searchers with informational and educational intent. These ads rank for people doing broad searches for “best paddles”.
A ton of athletes from other disciplines are taking up pickleball— use keywords to these target niches.
- pickleball paddles
- pickleball rackets
- best pickleball paddles
- selkirk pickleball paddles
- best pickleball paddles 2022
- just paddles
- top rated pb paddle
- best pickleball paddle for spin
- pickleball rackets amazon
- best pb paddle for tennis player
- selkirk paddle
- selkirk labs
Top Ranking Ads
Paid Search Creatives: Gamma Sports
Gamma Sports is targeting advanced pickleball players with Paid Search.
- Interchange between “pro” and “advanced” pickleball players. It leaves room for players to connect with different words they use to describe themselves.
- Use the description to broaden your audience base, while targeting pros in the title, they use the description to highlight their brand is for “For first time players and professional players alike”.
- Some ads offer an open-ended “Get a pickleball gift” and some offer “Free shipping over $90”.
- gamma pickleball paddles
Gamma Sports only targets one branded keyword on these top ads.
Focus on generating traffic to one main product display page.
Top Performing Ads
*Campaign pulled from Gamma Sport’s top spending month, February 2023.
Analyze competitor referral traffic to identify the key drivers behind their visits and uncover potential opportunities.
Identify the press and media entities that have the most influence over your target audience, and pinpoint the optimal websites for affiliate marketing partnerships and display ad placements.
Selkirk is leading the referral traffic segment, with 48K website visits.
Gamma Sport followed with 26K referral website visits and experienced a major referral traffic spike in September 2022 which may be due to the inclusion of Gamma Sports in this pickleball paddle review (1).
Partner with Pickleball publications and media companies that build list content around gifts to buy or activities to do.
Incentivizing the public to play pickleball is just as much part of the marketing effort as promoting the brand.
Leverage the multitude of pickleball content sites.
As interest in pickleball is rising, there are a plethora of existing content and pickleball information pages online. From review sites to newsletters, there are many backlinks and referral opportunities.
Partnerships: In a solidified partnership with The Dink (2), Selkirk offers an expansive referral program hosting giveaways, podcasts and other content with the brand.
Leverage trusted pickleball outlets and create solid partnerships with them.
In July 2022, the brands hosted a giveaway where three winners would secure Selkirk paddles “for life”.
Visibility: Forbes is a major supporter of Pickleball with over 30 posts made on the sport in 2023 alone. From event coverage to lists, find partners willing to share your product with a new perspective.
Expand beyond traditional sports media outlets and review sites for product coverage.
This Forbes article positions pickleball paddles as a “thoughtful groomsmen gift that’ll never go out of style”.
As we dissect organic search data, we keep an eye on spikes in competitor traffic and keyword trends.
When a brand outperforms others in organic search, we delve into its best-performing web pages to understand what captivates the audience. By identifying the most impactful keywords, we can decode prevailing content themes and formats, leading us to web content opportunities that truly resonate with the audience.
Organic Traffic Growth
Maximize brand awareness by being the point of contact in the pickleball world.
Selkirk predominantly ranks for branded keywords like “selkirk paddles” but they also have a strong non-branded keyword strategy that is helping position them as the overall pickleball provider. Here are some organic non-branded keywords they’re ranking for:
- selkirk tv
- best pickleball paddle
- pickleball grip size
- matt stodola
- pickleball illegal serve
Make sure each sponsored athlete has a respective organic page on your site so you rank when people search for them.
Organic Page Traffic
Think about content production’s role in your branding.
Some of Selkirk’s top organic pages are ranking because of content provided away from a product focus.
They’ve created a TV app that can be added to devices or smart TVs (Apple TV, Roku…) where fans can engage in the pickleball league and other video content.
Analyzing competitors' social metrics reveals untapped platforms with high audience engagement and minimal competition.
It helps identify the platforms that drive web traffic and indicates where to focus your social strategy for maximum reach, engagement, and follower growth. By benchmarking competitors' social media efforts and performance across platforms, you can identify top-performing areas and gain insights to enhance your own social strategy.
Gamma Sports is leading in total followers across social media.
Gamma Sports is the dominant player in the competitive set with a social media following of 84K, followed by Selkirk at 75K. The remaining brands have an average of 20K followers each.
Instagram has generated the most followers for the competitive set at 84K, followed by Facebook at 73K. Only Gamma Sports and Selkirk are activating on YouTube while Selkirk, Recess Pickleball and CRBN Pickleball are experimenting with TikTok.
Not many brands are winning in the YouTube or TikTok space— focus there.
Only two pickleball brands are really growing on socials from the competitive set.
Selkirk saw the largest growth gaining 34K new followers, followed by Recess Pickleball at 20K new followers across social media channels.
Selkirk has an aggressive social media strategy, posting 116 times in February 2023, when they experienced their top growth month on Instagram with 2.8K new followers.
Recess Pickleball takes a partnership approach, with three collaborative posts made in their top growth period of May 2023, when they gained 3.4K new followers.
*Historical follower growth data for CRBN Pickleball on all platforms is currently unavailable
Selkirk is the only competitor leveraging video content.
Selkirk is significantly outpacing competitors when it comes to video content, generating 11M views. The other brands generated an average of 249K views each predominantly from Instagram or YouTube.
Selkirk differs from competitors with a majority of video views generated on Facebook, followed by YouTube.
Build competitor research to identify the top players in the TikTok game for pickleball and digest what their top-performing content is to take over the platform.
Content & Messaging
By analyzing the competitors' content, we can discover unique opportunities, pinpoint successful production elements and techniques for replication, and identify underperforming themes to sidestep.
This will guide an effective content strategy for the Pickleball audience.
Content & Messaging: Selkirk
Selkirk has a high post cadence, low-effort strategy.
In a top growth period*, 43% of posts are collaborative, made by athletes.
Athlete Posts (46%)
Sharing images and celebrations of sponsored athletes.
Product Posts (25%)
Getting detailed with specific product highlights.
Misc. Posts (15%)
A random mix of social cause and trend posts.
Tip Posts (9%)
Athletes sharing their tips and tricks in the pickleball world.
Giveaway Posts (4%)
Partnered giveaway posts for paddles and other products.
Content & Messaging: Selkirk
Use Facebook as a competition highlight reel.
Especially for the top of funnel prospects looking to get into pickleball, distill the top moments from games. This is Selkirk’s top-performing video content on Facebook.
Collaboration Posts: Recess Pickleball
Recess Pickleball is expanding the sport by working with brands not traditionally present in the pickleball world, like clothing brand Aerie or furniture brand The Inside. Partnering with brands like these opens the conversation about pickleball to audiences that may not have traditionally considered it.
Supergoop is a sunscreen & skin care company that partnered with Recess to build a pickleball starter kit with two paddles, sunscreen, three balls and a bag, retailing for $225.
When analyzing email marketing, we look for growth spikes in email list size, email traffic and send volumes.
Once we detect a brand significantly outpacing competitors’ growth, that’s our clue to dig into all that brand’s email campaigns to determine which strategies and tactics fuelled the growth. Areas we analyze include optimal send times, top-performing creatives, subject line tactics, and traffic generation.
Selkirk is the only brand really focusing on email marketing, creating space to leverage the channel.
Selkirk generated 12K website visits from email marketing from July 2022 to June 2023. All other brands are generating less than 5K in traffic from emails in a year.
Provide tangible value in email marketing communications.
Selkirk’s top-performing emails are tailored, value-based content that actually aims to help readers become better pickleball players.
- Use subject lines to feature at least one drill that readers will take away from the newsletter to try themselves.
- The main content should feature a short headline, description and link to a video to learn more.
- Include additional learning resources hyperlinked in bullet points.
- Conduct customer surveys and enter participants into giveaways in return.
When looking at demographics, we analyze site visitors and social media followers.
We analyze the demographics of all brands in the competitive set to determine the average audience demographics and identify any anomalies in the data. This helps us to identify if any brand is attracting an audience that is not being captured by others.
Website Demo (Gender)
All brands except Recess Pickleball see a majority of male audiences.
Recess Pickleball is the only brand seeing slightly more females in their audience than males, at 52%. The remaining brands have an average male audience of 68% and an average female audience of 32%.
Is there an opportunity for someone to even out the playing field and lean more towards female-focused marketing like Recess Pickleball?
Website Demo (Age)
18-24 year olds represent less than 10% of the audience for all brands in the competitive set.
25-34 year olds are the most saturated market at an average of 23%, followed by 55-64 year olds at an average of 20% across competitors.
People 35-44 years old and 65+ see less share for competitors at 17% and 13% on average. Interestingly, Prokennex is heavily reaching people over the age of 65%.
No one is leveraging the youngest audience, which reportedly represents 18% of Pickleball players in the USA alone, based on research (7) conducted by the APP (Association of Pickleball Players) as of April 2023.
When looking at geographics, we analyze site visitors.
We analyze which regions are generating the highest volumes of site traffic for each brand in the competitive set, and see if there is any growth in certain markets. Combining geographics with demographic data allows us to create a robust audience profile for the competitive set.
The United States is dominating for competitors.
The United States represents 83% of incoming traffic for competitors, where Selkirk has the top presence (63%). They also have majority share in smaller regions like Canada (5%) and Pakistan (1%).
Japan follows with 7% of incoming traffic, which is completely leveraged by Gamma Sports.
Mexico is the fifth largest region for competitors, with Prokennex and CRBN Pickleball fighting for audience share there.
1. INPICKLEBALL’S PADDLE GUIDE
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