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JOOLA Pickleball: A Conversation with Tom Nguyen

May 23, 2022

Our conversation with Tom Nguyen, Senior Vice President of JOOLA Pickleball Marketing, about the company's recent partnership with Ben Johns.

We recently had a very informative conversation with Tom Nguyen, the Senior Vice President of JOOLA’s Marketing team. We took the time to discuss some of the best parts about JOOLA: the company’s recent partnership with Ben Johns, the brand's historical influence in Europe and Asia, and what it takes to make pickleball the next Olympic Sport.

Eli: I was doing some research on JOOLA before our talk here, and what I've noticed is that JOOLA has had a huge influence in Asia historically. What exactly about that market, that region— what do they love about JOOLA?

Tom: A couple of different things… table tennis is something huge in Europe, in Asia. And in the United States, it's actually insanely popular on the recreational level. It's, there are so many people who play at home in their basements, local YMCA, whatever it may be. But in terms of the professional side, it's not really there, just like soccer. 

So already market-wise, Europe and Asia are huge. And we've been around since 1952. And we have produced some of the best tables and athletes and equipment in general out there... We have a long-standing history with Europe and Asia… So we're not just some no-name brand, we're a very strong brand in the table tennis world… I think Asia has known about us for a very long time. 

Eli: Is there anything in particular with pickleball that people could really capitalize on to stimulate public interest in having a serious, competitive scene?

Tom: I think we're on the right path. I think it's just honestly more exposure and it's getting there. I think for the second year in a row pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in the United States. So that's a great sign that it is headed in the right direction already.

Rachel Rettger Pickleball

Eli: There is a sentiment that pickleball is something that people don't take seriously. But does table tennis have a sort of stigma against it?

Tom: I think with table tennis, the biggest issue is that they [people] don't know the professional side exists. They look at it more as a recreational hobby game, like how some people look at foosball, right? It's just a game that you play downstairs in the basement… but there's obviously professional foosball or out there and stuff like that. But I think that's the issue... showcase the professional side that people can take it to a higher level. And that's not seen enough. I think that pickleball faces a similar challenge.

Eli: Ben Johns: he was considering returning to Franklin or taking on a different contract. People weren't really expecting JOOLA to dive into pickleball and partner with him right away. So what sort of things did JOOLA have in store that appealed to him?

As it turns out, JOOLA’s owner, Richard Lee, happened to give pickleball a try on the same day and at the same court as Ben Johns. Tom describes the story as “serendipitous,” which seems like an understatement. What are the odds of that?

Tom: And we're like, “Hey, we think we can get into this [pickleball]” and especially by our knowledge of manufacturing, construction, all that stuff. Because while we might be new to pickleball, we're not new to business and manufacturing... And we started creating all these prototypes, and we felt pretty good about it. And we felt like we could launch the pickleball part of our brand already.

And one person had contact with Ben, and they said “Ben! Come in. Check these guys out.” So he hit with us and he tried all of our paddles and was like, “Guys, you guys have something really, really solid here. This is awesome.”

Ben Johns US Open Pickleball

Eli: There's this optimism towards making pickleball not just a US-centric sport, but also something that's across the globe, especially because JOOLA is a global company. How have other places been receptive to pickleball?

Tom: I think it's fairly receptive. It's just more about getting exposure, as we said. I think in every country it's growing. It's just a question of how fast we can.. after we launched, we got so many inquiries from countries around the world ready to buy our products, of course, which has been crazy. And we've talked to some people in different countries and one of the biggest things is finding courts to play and places to play. There are people that are learning that “oh my gosh, I can tape down like a court on the tennis court.” They just didn’t know about that option.

Eli: What do you personally love about JOOLA?

Tom: It’s almost a cliche answer, but we really are like the care team. We always have used that.. basically, we care for each other, we care for our players. And when we try to do things, we try to do it right. Our tagline is: “For the champion in you,” and we mean that we want you to be the best version of you possible. And we get the ability to do that with our brand, in our company every day. And that's really cool.

Shop at Fromuth Pickleball for the complete line-up of JOOLA Pickleball paddles and equipment, including the Ben Johns Hyperion - the Official Pickleball Paddle of Ben Johns.

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