REPORT: Ben Johns to JOOLA?
UPDATE TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE (April 1): Ben Johns has announced he is signing with JOOLA. It is clear at this point that JOOLA is going all-in on pickleball as we had noted in our original post below – there are going to be 14 paddles total being released. Johns lined up some media rounds to make his announcement instead of on his own podcast that has not had an episode since January 22, 2022. It sounds like there are a number of other current pros who have sponsorship deals lined up with JOOLA.
The most interesting thing to monitor with this official announcement is where Ben Johns’ new signature paddle fits into the current landscape of pro pickleball. There has been a lot of discussion about the Crbn, its legality and even reports of the PPA possibly banning the paddle. We expect the goal for Johns in partnering with JOOLA is to have a paddle that will push the limits of what can be done. While training, fitness, diet etc. are clearly the most important aspects for a player, it will be monitored whether this change in sponsorship will make any difference for the current #1 player.
The whispers have been around for weeks now, and continue to grow, that Ben Johns is set to join JOOLA on what we presume must be a substantial sponsorship deal with the European table tennis company. The rumor is that Johns has turned down an extension from Franklin that would have paid him around seven figures over three years (edit: the offer may have been four years). Johns, who has been with Franklin since 2019, has been undeniably the best player in pickleball over the recent years and it would appear that JOOLA is going all-in on the number one player in the game.
We do know that JOOLA is looking to get into the Pickleball game. We saw Chuck Taylor playing with the JOOLA Synchro, currently their only USAP approved paddle, at the PPA’s Desert Ridge Classic a couple of weekends ago. We also know that some pros have been given a number of demo paddles to test drive. While it is still very early stages for them, it seems pretty close to definite that JOOLA is looking to get into the North American Pickleball market even though they currently do not actually have any pickleball paddles for sale. Interestingly, the only pickleball related person JOOLA follows on Instagram is Casey Patterson.
If this partnership with Ben Johns comes to fruition for JOOLA, it will be quite a splash for a company that has no hands in the pickleball cookie jar. We have been seeing other big, non-pickleball brands working their way into the market such as Head, Babolat, Adidas and, of course, Franklin. Although Franklin sold pickleballs prior to signing Ben, their acquisition of him, supplemented by Christine McGrath and their existing relationship with Aspen Kern, was their first real foray into the legitimate paddle business. Instead of sponsoring an entire roster of players, Franklin chose to go big with a few players led by Ben Johns and it has been a resounding success for them.
It would appear that JOOLA appears to be trying to build success off the same model as Franklin by signing Ben as the face of their Pickleball line.
The rumor surrounding Ben and JOOLA is that Ben is going to be creating his version of the Electrum paddle. This is not surprising as we’re seeing all sorts of companies try to emulate and/or surpass the grit and spin that used to be unique to the Electrum brand, and Ben himself has been very complimentary of Electrum.
Not a lot of people are probably aware that Ben developed a paddle with Prince, the Quantum Pro, with intention of signing with Prince, but then Franklin came in with a better option and Johns signed with Franklin. Ironically, his brother, Collin Johns, went on to sign with Prince and play with the Quantum Pro, while Ben went on to design his signature paddle with Franklin. Ben also had a hand in the development of the Elite Pro Maverick at Engage so he is no stranger to developing paddles.
Prince thought they had Ben in the bag, which was obviously a mistake on their part to do anything without a hard commitment. Of course, it’s possible this situation could change for Ben and JOOLA as there have been rumblings for some time with nothing officially announced. For what it’s worth, Ben’s Instagram still has Franklin Pickleball as one of his sponsors. But that could also be due to Ben still being under contract with Franklin.
These are the types of deals that will push the sport forward, but it will also leave less room for smaller companies who have had their primary focus as pickleball. That’s the business of the game though as it may only be a matter of time before we start seeing players find larger deals with more widely known companies as the sport continues to grow. It will also be interesting to see what impact this signing has on Franklin. They do have a number of other pros now on their roster, but Johns has certainly been the face of their Pickleball brand, and the “Ben Johns Signature Paddle” appears to be their best seller by far.
One other thing we will be keeping an eye on, if Johns does indeed go to JOOLA, is whether there are any changes to JOOLA’s ownership, which is Sport Squad, Inc. There is currently a bit of an attempt at monopolizing the pickleball market, and you can’t help but wonder if this move might be another part of that.
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19 thoughts on “REPORT: Ben Johns to JOOLA?”
I’m not surprised on Joola thinking of signing Ben Johns. It’s a brand I’ve used among others while playing Table Tennis. Another brand I heard through another source is huge in Badminton and Tennis. Yonex may be planning a foray into Pickleball but I can’t substantiate it. Cheers!
The only question I have is, was Ben a serious enough name in Table Tennis or is this based just on his Pickleball ranking? It makes me wonder about grit or other T/T tech that may become a possibility. Currently nothing imparts spin on a ball as a serious T/T paddle and nothing spins faster than a T/T ball lol! It’s simply nuts to imagine that level of spin/speed/power ratio in Pickleball. Those 3 are a long time rating of competitive T/T paddles. It may be coming.
This would just be based off Ben’s name in pickleball and them wanting to get info pickleball
Thx! It did peak my curiosity some for those reasons. Cheers!
watch the alw and lw space closely. my understanding is they hired an agent recently. not sure if PT (their paddle sponsors) are in a position to big game hunt in 2022. also it would make a lot of sense for alw to be sponsored by same company as her mixed partner. that would do a lot for the brand. my guess is alw is weighing many many sponsorship offers (it would not surprise me if Nike makes an appearance).
other things to watch in 2022. i think there are too many paddle brands to make a go of it. I would watch out for independent PT SK and EP…I would think OP can’t be doing all that great either. they all make great product. but it’s not all about product. it’s about do you have the resources to throw at players. Obviously SKPB could not compete with the offer R and L N got from GPB. Some of these OG paddle companies could get bought out by bigger companies, for example Wilson, which can’t seem to get any traction in pb.
I expect jw to sign a major sponsorship deal in 2022, likely with a deep pocketed new entrant (yonex babolat, joola).
Very insightful comment
This is interesting. AL going to be very marketable as you said in the more recent comment. Wilson is one we forgot but that’s another one that doesn’t gain traction, which I think comes down to not investing in your product
Wilson should do more with their Tru 32 Ball marketing which actually appears to have had some science applied to it vs most other generic balls out there. IMO, the BALL science will be more impactful in the future as we move away from early generation, lower quality balls.
Related, the gold rush is on in paddle marketing but as the sport moves into a more professional realm, the rules dictating equipment limitations will limit how much a paddle really matters… This is true for nearly all sports as the cat and mouse game of tech vs how the game is played evolves (see clap skates, shark skin swim suits etc etc)
Wonder how Chuck got on to the Joola scene, were they offering paddles to tons of pros? I think this is so smart of Joola to solely go after Ben. No one’s name carries as much weight as him, not even close in my mind. I don’t see AL switching as I don’t think they need money but who knows. I emailed Joola and they said to expect their Pickleball products by April 1st. Do they want Ben officially signed in by then? Who knows.
They are having pros demo them but no clue how Chuck specifically got on them. Thanks for info about Joola too
alw is the most marketable player in pb, or soon will be. I never heard of someone turning down large sums of money that is available to them because they “have enough”. That’s not how human nature works. The goal of most individuals is to Maximize their income, especially athletes, who have limited time to do so. Pro Pickleball is in “liftoff” mode. And alw is in perfect position to ride the wave. Further, if they were not interested in maximizing their income then they would not have signed with a sports agent. I think alw has the most earning potential of any pickleball pro male or female. And it’s not solely because she’s the best female player in the world at 15. It goes well beyond that. It is very easy to switch paddles these days. 🙂 If it turns out that she intends to play for “the love of the sport” and does nothing to capitalize on the opportunities, not only will I be shocked, I will also come back here and say I was wrong to the 17 people reading my predications.
Family money would allow someone to wait for more opportunity and/or not lock themselves into something for the longer term. It means you don’t have incentive to sign something quickly. That’s the difference that I see when a player doesn’t need money now vs. very much needs money. It’s probanly why the Waters apparently didn’t sign the 3 year contract, at least as of a few weeks ago
Yes having family money (i am not privy to the inner workings of their financial situation as others appear to be) allows one to bide their time. And waiting has been the proper strategy so far. It does not mean they intend to forgo the enormous opportunity in front of alw. Apparently they signed with a high profile sports agency who has a mission to develop brands. That to me does not sound like they are “content” to just play for the love of the sport.
I suspect they are sifting through multiple offers for alw, and for the W doubles partnership, as well as designing marketing plans for her brand. Look for LW to piggyback off of the deals alw gets. It appears the W’s are signed to a 1 year PPA deal. A one year deal makes a lot of sense if you expect your marketability to Explode in the future, as I am sure they believe it will for alw.
ZN laid out why he thought locking in a 3 year contract was not a great idea when the sport in undergoing so much positive inflection right now. My understanding is there are some great players who have not signed any contracts with tours.
Perhaps their paddle sponsor, PT, has Global aspirations, and is ready to do some big game hunting in 2022. Just from observations, they don’t appear to be a company able to make that leap. I could be wrong. Perhaps the affiliation with Prince, if there still is one, ( I am not exactly sure how it works) might help their cause. And it would be a great win for the little guy if PT are able to retain alw for the long term.
I would agree with you on the financials and it’s not just for the love of the game. Probably correct on paddeltek too, but we’ll have to see
The paddle sponsorship / pro game right now is 100% about who’s writing the biggest check. Paddle “tech” is almost all about marketing at the moment. One only needs to do some searching on import records to see that most brands are simply using OEMs out of Asia to supply a paddle and then they hand it off to marketing to come up with some fancy words. I won’t completely say “snake oil” but there’s minimal data out there. The fact BJ plays with a paddle HALF the MSRP of other names is testament to this. (Never mind you can find the EXACT BJ OEM paddle online for $35ish). Nearly brands are doing this. Made is USA brands source their PP Honeycomb sheets from the same aerospace company etc etc. (Prince used Paddletek to make their line) USA brands also import from OEMs for their different price point lines. Perhaps there’s some difference in surface treatments but there’s VERY little evidence out there to support this. The tennis racket industry has been like this for years apparently. HEAD and Babolat use same OEM. At least there you do have some performance differences with strings… To be frank, the current craze in paddle marketing, youtube “reviews” etc should be insulting to many.
This is a lot of equipment in general across sports. There isn’t a great deal of differentiation. Franklin has done it with BJ but I continue to think bigger companies that can sell similar quality paddles at lower cost are the way of the future. Paddles are very expensive and cost very little to make
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