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Le Padel, much more than a growth driver for Babolat

Louis-Marie Valin is an expert sports consultant.

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Le Padel, much more than a growth driver for Babolat

Louis-Marie Valin is an expert sports consultant. With agencies or advertisers, he works on communication, sponsorship, events or entrepreneurship issues. He is also a member of the Sport Business Observatory and founder of the site

As a symbol, the elite of Padel took up residence at Roland Garros last weekend. By announcing this Tuesday, the creation of a factory in Spain entirely dedicated to padel, the Babolat brand reaffirmed its ambition: to dominate the racket sports sector. A new stage in the family saga, a future success for the Lyon-based company which continues to grow!

In the French sports business ecosystem, Babolat serves as an example to follow as its success story has left its mark. Having evolved in less than thirty years from a simple string manufacturer to a leader in the sale of tennis rackets, the Lyon brand has established itself by shaking up the codes of a very traditional sport. Faithful to its strategy 100% focused on racket sports, the equipment manufacturer has sought, since 2001 and its very first racket, to establish itself in the world of Padel.

For those who are not yet familiar with this sport, it is not about these stand-up paddle boards, a water sports practice which is developing very quickly. Some will see it as a beach sport, with a ball that looks like a tennis ball and a board-type racket with holes. But it's much more than that. If you have never heard of Fernando Belasteguín, Paquito Navarro or Maxi Sánchez, know that millions of Spaniards or South Americans know and idolize them like Novak Djokovic, Lionel Messi or Fernando Alonso. These three, along with a few others, are the crème de la crème of padel in what is described by many observers as the fastest growing sport in the world.

Understanding the racquet sports industry better than anyone, Babolat's management team decided to be a key player in this new sport, just as it is now the leading tennis equipment manufacturer. To this end, the brand announced this week, and with great fanfare, the creation of a “Studio Padel”, a new innovation center entirely dedicated to this sport and located in Barcelona. It is therefore in Madrid, in the prestigious setting of the Emperador Castellana Tower, in the business district of Madrid, that Éric Babolat in person, accompanied by the current world No. 1 of padel Juan Lebron, presented this device to the press. The opportunity for us to take a deeper look at the brand's strategy.

A multi-brand strategy

That the event takes place in Spain might be surprising for a French company, but this choice is nevertheless part of an assumed logic of being “three brands in one”. In other words, if the identity of the group is global, each of the three sports, tennis, badminton and therefore padel must be able to operate independently while having the most coherent positioning possible. As such, each HQ is located in strategic countries: France and Lyon for tennis, China and Shanghai for badminton and therefore Spain and Madrid for padel.

Spain is, in fact, “the place where the heart of padel beats” according to Eric Babolat’s formula. With its 5 million practitioners out of the 10 on the planet today, it is difficult to prove him wrong. Especially since the brand already has a little Iberian accent taken from being embodied by champions from beyond the Pyrenees: obviously Rafael Nadal for over a decade and Carlos Alcaraz today for tennis, Juan LeBron for padel, each of them having the common point of having been or being world No. 1.

Tradition of innovation, excellence and family spirit, these are three attributes that describe Babolat well. Who better than a champion like Rafael Nadal to embody them and sum them up in one sentence: “I feel closer to Babolat because it’s a family business”! This company has always known how to bet on and support future champions, to grow together. Under contract since he was a teenager, the Manacor bull personifies the values ​​of the brand so much that he has become inseparable from it. Éric Babolat considers that: “Rafael was the outsider who, while deeply respecting this sport, wanted to revolutionize it. At Babolat, we were also the challenger in this market and we like to innovate, break the rules, challenge things, shake up the established order, so the marriage was perfect. » An anticipated and assumed personification then? Well not really.

However, even if the leader denies it, Babolat tends to transpose this strategy of personification into the padel through its partnership with Juan Lebron. For him, as for Nadal and Alcaraz, Babolat can boast of having had a hollow nose. Spotted very young in a sport where the Spaniards lacked a headliner, he is therefore the standard bearer of the equipment manufacturer who will not have skimped on resources since he will now have a complete range, from shoes to the racket through the outfit, in his image. “El Lobo”, that’s his nickname, will even have a distinctive logo like what Nike did for Nadal or Federer. The brand of the very great, never before seen at Babolat, which clearly demonstrates all the hopes placed in it.

Tennis vs Padel ?

An ambition corroborated by sales objectives. Considering the tremendous growth of padel (we consider that the number of practitioners should be multiplied by nine in the ten years to come), Éric Babolat imagines that its share in its turnover should quickly increase from 15% currently to more than half, in fact surpassing the brand's historic sport, tennis. It would then be easy to announce the decline of the latter and yet, far from being its gravedigger, the padel could on the contrary be a lifeline for tennis.

Indeed, for Éric Babolat, the padel, very fun and easy to access, “responds to the logic of the moment which is that people want to take care of themselves, their health both physical and mental while having fun and quickly accessing an activity that allows it” but also allows “bringing back to tennis players who had moved away from it”. By dusting off racquet sports and revitalizing clubs, padel could, at the same time, give tennis a second lease of life. A double benefit that Babolat intends to take advantage of to continue to be the international benchmark for racket sports.

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