Naomi Osaka’s Evolve Agency Expands into Pickleball Representation: A Game-Changing Move?

Evolve, the boutique talent agency co-founded by tennis superstar Naomi Osaka and her agent Stuart Duguid in 2022, is making waves once again.

This time, they are venturing into the world of pickleball with the launch of a new subdivision called Pro Pickleball Management (PPM). Spearheaded by Jamie Duguid, Stuart’s brother and a former executive at MLS, 160over90, and IMG, PPM aims to represent a select group of professional pickleball players and provide them with exceptional management services.

In an interview with SBJ, Jamie Duguid expressed his excitement about this new venture. “We see an opportunity to change what we’re doing and add to our existing businesses,” he explained. “Our intention with this is to represent a small number of players and do a really focused and good job for them.” With a strong focus on quality over quantity, PPM aims to work with top-ranked pickleball players who are making waves in the sport.

At its launch, PPM has already signed five professional pickleballers: Anna Bright, Federico Staksrud, Hurricane Tyra Black, James Ignatowich, and Rachel Rohrabacher. Staksrud and Black, who played for the Miami Pickleball Club (MPC) last year, have shown exceptional skill and dedication, earning them a place among the top 14 doubles players in their respective genders on the PPA Tour rankings. PPM’s commitment to working with elite players aligns with its goal of elevating the sport of pickleball to new heights.

This move by Evolve reflects the agency’s successful strategy in the tennis world, where they represent three high-profile clients: Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, and Anna Kalinskaya. The decision to enter the pickleball market stems from the sport’s growing popularity at the amateur level and the increasing commercial interest it has garnered at the professional level.

Jamie Duguid recognizes the potential for brands to partner with players, teams, and tournaments in the pickleball space. He states, “There’s an opportunity for brands [in that] it’s still fairly early. If you’re getting in now, it’s not going to break your bank, and you’re going to get really good partners out of this.”

PPM’s approach to athlete-brand deals will be highly individualized, ensuring that each player’s unique strengths and values align with the brands they collaborate with. Jamie Duguid draws inspiration from Naomi Osaka’s journey, emphasizing the importance of forging deep partnerships with brands that resonate with the athlete’s personal values.

While the pickleball players signed by PPM may not be at the same level as Osaka just yet, the agency is committed to tailoring brand partnerships to suit each player’s specific needs and aspirations.

Although Evolve is headquartered in Los Angeles, Jamie Duguid describes the agency as a “pretty much fully remote business.” With his base in Atlanta, he highlights the flexibility and adaptability of their operations. Evolve currently employs nearly 10 individuals directly and collaborates with around 20 more through various entities, including Osaka’s production company, Hana Kuma.

Regarding the Miami Pickleball Club, Jamie Duguid mentioned that Evolve will continue to manage its commercial rights. However, he hinted at the possibility of stepping back from his role with the team, indicating that a succession plan is yet to be determined.

As Evolve expands its reach into the world of pickleball, the sport is poised for significant growth and recognition. With the expertise and resources of a renowned agency like Evolve behind them, professional pickleball players can expect enhanced opportunities, increased exposure, and strategic brand partnerships. The entrance of Evolve and PPM into the pickleball landscape marks a game-changing moment for the sport, solidifying its position as a rising star in the world of athletics.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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