The sport of polo dates back to 600 B.C., with the first matches being played between China and Persia. In 1890, the United States Polo Association (USPA) was formed as the governing body for the sport in the U.S. Today, the USPA works alongside U.S. Polo Assn. — the official, sport-inspired, lifestyle and clothing brand — to spread the illustrious history and enthusiasm for the sport around the world. U.S. Polo Assn. and the sport’s governing body’s most recent efforts include a multi-year partnership with ESPN, capital improvements to the USPA National Polo Center and increasing accessibility to the sport and lifestyle brand to a globally diverse audience through business collaborations and philanthropic partnerships.
A Global Audience, A Global Community
The mission to bring the sport to a larger global audience began back in 2022 when Global Polo Entertainment — the media subsidiary of USPA Global Licensing — signed an agreement with ESPN to expose millions of households to the sport on multiple ESPN platforms.
“We tested three polo games across various markets, and it was widely successful!” says J. Michael Prince, president and chief executive officer, USPA Global Licensing, a division of U.S. Polo Assn. that manages the brand in over 190 countries.
Due to this success, the two entities agreed to extend the partnership, airing many of the sport’s top championship games, including the Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Polo Championships, the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship®, the Women’s and Men’s Division I National Intercollegiate Championship games and the Westchester Cup — a game known for featuring the notorious rivalry between U.S. and the U.K.
“The USPA views the ESPN relationship with great optimism for attracting an entirely new generation to the greatest game on four legs,” says Stewart Armstrong, chairman, USPA.
Not only does this agreement give more people around the world admission to watch the various tournaments in their own homes, but it also allows a 25-minute, inspirational, sport television series, “Breakaway,” to be broadcasted. And, as a result, giving the next generation insight into the exciting lives and careers of polo players and their equine partners.
Women in Polo and U.S. Polo Assn.
There are so many different aspects that make the sport exhilarating and awe-inspiring. However, one of the most important is that women have the same place as men on the field.
Further highlighted in “Breakaway,” men and women play as equals on the same teams and compete against each other at every level. For instance, Hope Arellano — female professional polo player, U.S. Polo Assn. global brand ambassador and inspiration to all generations — played on the co-ed USA Team in the 2022 XII FIP World Polo Championship and won Silver. Along with her Silver, Hope has also collected a myriad of other titles and championships, including Most Valuable Player.
Unlike most professional sports, female players generally have to play in different leagues and compete in separate tournaments from men. Case in point, Lindsay Allen, player for the Minnesota Lynx, cannot play against Nikola Jokic, player for the Denver Nuggets, in the NBA Championships. She can only play in the WNBA Championships.
“So, I'd say it's the one sport where actions are louder than words. It is one of the biggest things that I love about the sport,” continues Prince.
U.S. Polo Assn. also shows its support for female players and fans through its timeless women’s apparel line consisting of soft textures, relaxed fits, dresses, and, of course, polo shirts in storefronts all around the world. And with the recent launch of U.S. Polo Assn.’s Fall/Winter 2023 Collection, women can find winter accessories, corduroy shackets and soft sweaters to keep them warm and cozy during the cold months. In addition to day-to-day wear, female players also have access to performance clothing specifically designed for polo athletes through the USPA Pro line.
“There is tremendous momentum to build up girls’ and women’s apparel within U.S. Polo Assn. It is growing all over the world, and I am excited to see the line expand in the coming years,” says Prince.
Building the Premier Destination for Polo
Another way the USPA and U.S. Polo Assn. show their commitment to the polo community and sport is through their continuous infrastructure improvements at the National Polo Center in Palm Beach County, Florida. Already one of the most prestigious destinations for the sport in the United States, the facility is set to be enhanced in the coming years. Particularly in 2024, people can look forward to quality developments in the dining areas and polo fields, alongside an overall elevated sport and customer experience including luxury shopping, entertainment and the infamous champagne brunch.
“The polo community is fun and welcoming, and this is a great way to acknowledge them. The polo sport and Palm Beach County community is really who we owe the success of the sport to,” continues Prince.
A Sport and Brand That Gives Back
But despite capital improvements, apparel lines and a multi-year partnership with ESPN, the USPA and U.S. Polo Assn. participation and activism in philanthropic organizations is the most admirable way they are spreading accessibility to the sport and brand.
A portion of the revenue from U.S. Polo Assn. goes back to the USPA, a non-profit, to allow it to offer affordable introductory programs, lessons, memberships, events and host tournaments to support the longevity of the sport, not for the next year, but for the next 100 years. U.S. Polo Assn. also commits to a variety of polo-based and equine charities throughout the polo season.
Much to Look Forward Too
As one can see, U.S. Polo Assn. and USPA efforts to penetrate new audiences, expand reachability and grow the sport and the brand in engaging and surprising ways are continuous for the foreseeable future. And with help from new partnerships and licensing deals, their vision is becoming reality.
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