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Babolat set to grow

Babolat is embarking on a campaign to make its Play Pure Drive rackets available to a wider section of the tennis-playing public. The privately owned French company is launching a new range of the rackets, which have sensors in their handles to provide detailed information on a player’s shot-making. Babolat hope to attract greater interest from younger players in particular.

The racket was created in 2012 and marketed in 2014 as the first step in realising Babolat’s vision of creating tennis products that communicate with the player. The racket has sensors and gyroscopes buried in its handle which allows the user to gather feedback about stroke selection, point of impact, spin, endurance, power and much more. After the racket is turned on via a switch on the butt cap, information is recorded and then analysed through an app on a player’s Smartphone, The information is relayed via Bluetooth or computer with a USB cable.

When the Play Pure Drive racket launched it was the first connected device to be approved by the ITF under its new Rule 31, which allows the monitored use of Player Analysis Technology. Priced at £350, the innovative racket was arguably not accessible to everyone.

Franck Debeauvais, Babolat’s UK Sales and Marketing Director, says that research confirmed 70% of the customers are from 25 and 55 years old, with the higher percentage at 25-35 years old for the UK. In a bid to make the technology available to a broader audience, and potentially to younger players, the company recently announced a new price of £250 for version 1, which is currently in the shops, and £300 for version 2, which will be available in 2015.

Debeauvais said: “We want to increase penetration. We want more people jumping into connected tennis. So we want it to be more accessible in terms of price.”

He said the introduction of a new range of rackets in the New Year would also help to broaden the appeal of the technology. A lighter version of the Play Pure Drive will be available in early 2015. Lighter rackets are being introduced (the first Play rackets weighed 300g), which should also improve sales.

Babolat will hope that publicity surrounding use of the racket by some of their sponsored players will broaden consumer interest. Carlos Moya, who has 196,000 Twitter followers, recently tweeted pictures of his racket. Rafa Nadal, who along with many other Babolat players regularly tests the racket, has 7.1million Twitter followers.

“We involve him [Rafa] and the team for every product test and launch,” Debeauvais said: “It is a key focus for us to have as many Team players as possible joining the connected community and improve visibility and use of this innovation on Tour.”

Debeauvais also revealed that scheduled updates to the app where the statistics are analysed will enhance the user experience. He said being able to review quickly recorded information from individual training sessions would be of real benefit to a player.

“We have major evolution of the app coming which will be revealed very soon, but we aim to provide further key information on the sessions, enhance social data sharing and improve the connectivity of the racket,” Debeauvais said.

“We think connected tennis is the tennis of the future and by 2020 there won’t be any racket that won’t be connected. We want to address every single tennis player. We want to broaden the community, have a stronger pool of players to create more desire for it, and so the product becomes more accessible to the market.”