House of Highlights, Organic Growth and Getting the Brand Balance Right
When Omar Raja started House of Highlights, it was because he spotted a gap in the market. Essentially finding himself unable to find clips of his favourite basketballers on YouTube, Raja decided to do it himself.
But the rise of what is now an Instagram account with 10.6m followers owes its popularity to the astute observation that fans who are second-screening sport on social media accounts don’t want in-game highlights clips – they want the moments they might have missed, the fun stuff. They’re the bits that go viral.
And the account Raja started in his college dorm room is now one of Bleacher Report’s most impressive properties.
Doug Bernstein, General Manager of House of Highlights, chatted to Dan McLaren on this week’s Digital Sport Insider Podcast about how the property came to be part of Bleacher.
“At the time, Bleacher Report didn’t have much of an Instagram presence,” said Bernstein who was running the company’s social channels at the time and was charged with growing the accounts. “There was a huge surge in traffic from Facebook and Twitter and then those algorithms shifted and there wasn’t quite the same audience growth capabilities on those platforms as there had been in the years preceding that.”
“We were looking to see where that next opportunity for audience growth was and we initially went into Instagram thinking maybe we could drive referrals and within a couple of days realised that was 100% not the strategy. So I started following a bunch of NBA players and sports accounts and then what happened was I started to be recommended other accounts in the explore tab and one of those accounts happened to be House of Highlights. I started following it very quickly and fell in love with the content.”
The experience Bernstein had was the genuine organic experience that any fan of the account has, stumbling across an account and becoming a fan naturally. It was only logical, then, that Bleacher would make contact with Raja, and eventually brought the account into their family.
That means it can go from strength to strength, not just because of the backing Raja now has, but because of the fact that Turner – Bleacher Report’s parent company – have access to rights when it comes to live game footage, particularly around the Champions League. And it’s an issue where House of Highlights was perhaps a little bit lucky in its early months – posting lots of basketball clips without ever being asked by the organisation in question to take them down.
“The way the NBA looked at it was as marketing,” says Bernstein. “They allowed their fans to post highlights and game clips, and as long as you’re not posting negative things about fights, the NBA is pretty lenient and that’s really helped grow their brand.”
Now what’s next is getting other brands involved with the House of Highlights channel.
As a large social media account, you can reach lots of people and have famous fans, but in the end that makes absolutely no money unless you find a way to monetise your impressive following or your great content.
“We were very selective in the brands we wanted to work with,” said Bernstein, “and we had a leadership team at Bleacher Report and Turner who were very supportive of that approach.”
“We weren’t going to go out and work with every brand, we tried to key in on brands that were a natural fit for integration with House of Highlights. We started with brands that we knew our audience were fans of and we started working with them on individual campaigns and then we were able to broaden our scope over the course of the year.”
“We have had a really good relationship and partnership with all the brands that we’ve worked with and they’ve trusted us to translate their brand’s voice and messaging for Instagram and for this younger audience. And I think we’ve done a good job of figuring out how to translate that message and make it relatable to our audience. Ultimately that’s the biggest thing – the trust that goes back and forth.”
It’ll be interesting to see where House of Highlights goes next. The rapid rise from nothing to 10.6m followers was possible because the content and the intentions behind it were so genuine and relatable. Bringing brands on board is always tricky and the approach has to be really spot on. As Bernstein says, trust is the key.
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