How two Sydney men built Australia’s biggest social-first media brand
When basketball fans Jaden Harris and Alex Sumsky had difficulty keeping up with the latest news from the NBA, they decided to investigate better options. They realised that match highlights weren’t being optimised and most of the media around the NBA consisted of stale match reports written in mostly bland newspaper language.
The Sydney men, who’ve been friends since high school, saw the opportunity to create a new content experience, tailored for a young audience and focusing on aspects of the game they wanted to follow, including culture, experiences and the NBA personalities.
Basketball Forever ranked number 1 in the top 10 Australian social properties for 2018 – with an audience of 3 million people ( collective followers across FB, Twitter and Instagram) 104 million actions (likes, reactions, comments, shares, retweets) and a reach of between 40-60 million per month (that includes how many people see the content each month, even if they don’t follow BF).
So how did it all begin?
“It all started when we set up a few different Facebook groups, posting memes and videos which we made just for fun to share with friends. Then it started to get traction and that’s when we saw there was real interest in people following our content on social media, particularly Facebook,” Jaden said.
“It was essentially an organic process; we created the content and people kept following us. About a year later we had 100,000 followers on Facebook, and it all came down to our ability to create good content that people wanted to follow. It was about staying on top of what Facebook wanted you to do at that moment and we worked really hard building our reach.”
At that stage, Jaden and Alex were running Basketball Forever as a hobby, rather than a business. Both men saw it as something they greatly enjoyed but they weren’t able to fully focus on it as they were busy juggling study and work.
But, as their following grew, they realised they needed to make Basketball Forever a priority – creating a business, the Forever Network.
“There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, we weren’t following a particular process. The best thing about publishing on social media is the instant data and feedback, so it’s a good indication about how something is going to go. So the constant feedback allowed us to continuously test new formats,” Alex said.
“There were several things we’d test and see what kind of feedback we’d get. For example, a core part of our brand is the darkened background which is something we tested early on. We found that if the background is dark, the player really stands out on a predominantly white newsfeed, so it helps people to see better. At the time, we didn’t think it would make a big difference, we were just playing around with it as an idea, but it’s become a core part of our DNA.”
As ranked by Shareablee, Basketball Forever sits in the number one position of all Australian brands in 2018, with a following of 3 million, 104 million actions, 484 million video views, 6 million shares and 38 million video actions.
Shareablee Managing Director (APAC) Michael McKeon said:
“Basketball Forever immediately stood out when we added them to our platform. Both locally and internationally they are punching well above their weight when you consider the resources of their peer set/competition.”
“BF has built a highly engaged global audience through fan focused content. They are fans generating content for other fans. This model is loaded with authenticity. They know what their audience wants and are servicing them efficiently and effectively through social,” Michael said.
The Forever Network plans to branch out to encompass other sports as they believe they’ve only just scratched the surface.
“We’re planning on more original content including longer form videos and more story telling around the players. We’re predominantly more US focused, it was only last NBL season we covered more Australian content, which people in Asia are following too. We’ll also start looking at the European league, all the basketball leagues around the world, particularly the women’s league,” Jaden said.
“Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports and the sport has the youngest average age of fans. One reason we jumped on basketball early on was because of the young audience on social and that audience is getting younger every year. When it comes to global sports, such as baseball and soccer, their fans are getting older. So, the average basketball fan is aged 23/24 and it’s falling each year. The NBA is doing more outreach to a global audience so basketball is definitely the sport to do it on.”