Walsh Jennings goes on attack with p1440 series
A year after refusing to sign an exclusive contract with the only surviving American beach volleyball tour, the sport’s most famous player will launch her own circuit this week. She insists it’s not a competitor.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings’ p1440 tournament series comes out of the gates Sept. 28-30 at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium with a $300,000 prize purse, which is bigger than any single stop on the AVP tour she spurned.
The p1440 tournament is just one part of Walsh Jennings’ business, which includes a wraparound music and lifestyle festival on site, along with plans for a subscription-driven health and wellness digital vertical. P1440 offers athletes the prospect of more per-event prize money without asking them to forego other events, and the website notes it is “created with athletes in mind.”
“We see ourselves as an enhancement to the sport, and ideally a rising tide lifts all boats,” Walsh Jennings said. “The more opportunities there are to make money, the more events there are in the sport, the better it is for athletes and awareness.”
In 2017, Walsh Jennings refused to sign a new four-year contract with the AVP, arguing that it wasn’t offering enough prize money to expect players to be exclusive. This year, the AVP gave out $1.46 million in prize money spread across eight stops. Before it went bankrupt in 2010, the old version of the AVP peaked at $4.45 million over 18 events in 2008, according to BVBinfo.com.
The first four events of the p1440 tour will total $1.2 million in prizes.
“The No. 1 [women’s] player in America made $38,000 last year, so you can imagine what No. 5 or No. 10 makes,” Walsh Jennings said. “No one wants handouts; they just want an opportunity to play.”
AVP owner Donald Sun, who acquired the defunct league out of bankruptcy in 2012, said “prize purse shows just one aspect of growth and success.” He pointed to a new distribution deal with Amazon, the start of a developmental league and the return of a Hawaii event as signs of progress.
While the AVP remains far off its prize levels of the pre-recession glory days, Sun said his emphasis is on sustainability and the long term.
Walsh Jennings acknowledges she does not expect p1440 to be profitable in the near term with the larger purses and festival concept, but could not say when she projects profitability. Financial backing is coming from co-founders Kasia Mays and Dave Mays, of logistics company Landmark Global. (Walsh Jenning’s husband and fellow pro beach volleyball player Casey Jennings is also a co-founder.)
Walsh Jennings recently hired WME to represent her personal brand and assist p1440’s launch, possibly by aiding sponsorship sales.
The p1440 season doesn’t conflict with the AVP tour, but any player who wants to pursue the p1440 prize pool will jeopardize his or her AVP contract. Sun said the four-year deals that AVP players signed in 2017 have not been amended recently. At press time, at least 18 athletes currently listed as AVP players were billed as participants in p1440.
P1440 will go to market with a key distinguishing factor compared to the AVP: It will charge admission, $40 per day and $80 for the three-day event. That price includes concerts, fitness talks, yoga and meditation sessions, cooking demonstrations and other experiences.