Edition 19 of SportsBiz Spotlight sees us sit down with one of the best in the game when it comes to social media for Gen Z. Eni Shabani, one of the founders of Rising Ballers takes us through the business…
What does Rising Ballers do?
Rising Ballers is the home of football for Gen Z. We’re a media platform that lives where Gen Z lives – Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snap. Our underlying mission is to educate and entertain young football fans daily through content, features, shows, events and more. Alongside operating as publisher, we run a series of well-known grassroots initiatives.
Most recently, we have now launched and invested in a series of other popular media brands, most noticeably She’s A Baller and Footballer Fits.
When was it founded?
Rising Ballers was founded at the end of 2017. At that time, we identified that broadcasters and digital publishers rarely covered football in an appealing way for Gen Z. They also rarely talked about young footballers until they had broken through to the 1st team. After floating the idea with a few academy players that are now 1st team Premier League players, the idea received huge support. We then set out on our mission.
What’s the main purpose of the organisation?
With football being an extremely difficult profession, we set out to do two things – (1) support young players through covering their journeys and providing exposure they wouldn’t have otherwise had and (2) serve as a new home for young fans to consume their favourite sport. Through doing this, we quickly became the voice of Gen Z, hitting unparalleled levels of engagement. The success Rising Ballers had from the get-go gave us a new-found responsibility to go further – not just to achieve our mission virtually but to make a tangible difference in real life too. We set up Rising Ballers FC, Rising Ballers Women FC and Rising Ballers College – popular grassroots initiatives that have supported hundreds of players in their footballing journey.
If failure wasn’t a possibility, what would be your biggest ambition?
We want to be the biggest, most culturally relevant football brand in the world. We’re proud to say we’ve had a strong couple of years with 100% audience growth year-on-year, and we want to maintain this as we build our partnerships out further across the UK and rest of the world. Having ran our grassroots initiatives, we feel that once we’re bigger, we’re best placed to harness this power and influence to drive football and communities forward in meaningful ways, with young people at the forefront.
When it comes to failing, we’re proud to say we have a pretty fearless attitude! We never knew how to run media platforms, events, football teams and more – but guess what we’ve done and quickly become experts in…
What’s your USP?
The first would have to be our community. We recognise how hard it is to build authentic audiences and there are many out there that like to cut corners with fake audiences – since day 1, we’ve always been adamant in avoiding this and now we have a monthly organic reach of 30m across the world, through a following of 1.3M across our channels. Aside from the quantity, we have the quality – an array of Premier League and academy footballers, #1 album artists, influencers and more have backed us since the early days of our journey, and to this day you can still find them engaging with our content.
The second has to be our approach and way of thinking. We’ve always felt passionate about what we do, and felt being a purely content-based brand was limiting. Now, through the strength of our community and insights we have, we go much further – our grassroots initiatives have created meaningful difference to teenagers across multiple cities, and then on top of that we throw events, tournaments, panels and more that you don’t want to miss.
How many people work at Rising Ballers and what capacity? I.e. job roles etc.
We currently have 11 people at Rising Ballers, each specialising in their own area. The backbone of this team is content – we have individuals running our Instagram, TikTok and Snap strategy, and then on top of this 2 in-house editors driving our original content for YouTube. Our brand partnerships team has grown too recently, as we’ve started entering into longer-term partnerships. Thankfully, COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down our growth (we even hired during it) and we have a position opening soon. If I could describe the team – it would be hustlers, entrepreneurial and outside-the-box thinkers!
Who are your usual clients?
We’re fortunate enough to have great worldwide partners. The funny thing is Rising Ballers was initially a hobby for the first 2 years – but it was only when we were getting invited into the offices of our dream partners that we realised we should take Rising Ballers full time. Now, we partner with the likes of Nike, Puma, New Balance, PlayStation, STATSports, Lucozade Sport, Sports Direct and many more. Alongside that, we work with amazing agencies across the UK and even broadcasters – special mention goes to BBC Sport who we have a great relationship with, producing an array of successful shows with them.
Who would be your dream client?
It has to be more of the same partners that we’re working with. More specifically, partners that understand our vision, our purpose and our expertise. When we work with partners that share these values, are daring and know that we get the culture better than most, that usually always leads to strong results. We’ve an array of case studies – shows, events, insights – showing this formula going above and beyond what we set out to do, and the more partners that we can work with that engage us to do what we do best, the better.
How can people connect with Rising Ballers? What’s your website and socials?
If you want to check out our content, just search ‘Rising Ballers’ across social media platforms. Our website contains more info on our work, and if you want to chat on anything feel free to reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Eni and Rising Ballers for providing so much great insight into everything they’re doing to build the home of football for Gen Z. If you would like to feature your sports based business or know of an organisation you would like to see feature on SportsBiz Spotlight, get in touch.