When pre-med student Nish Patel started his Derrick Rose fan page in his college dorm room at UCLA, he did not envision it transforming into a well-regarded sports media publication.
Nearly a decade later, the sports superfan owns a media company, ClutchPoints, that covers various sports verticals and pulls in about 30 million page views monthly.
He built his business with the consumers’ interest at the top of his priority list. With the mantra, “for fans, by fans,” Patel fosters community through a common denominator — a love for sports.
As ClutchPoints celebrates a decade, they launched a new initiative centered around HBCU sports coverage. HBCU student journalists and athletes will run the new vertical, allowing them to publish stories and curate content for video, social media, and podcasts. The students participating in the HBCU initiative will receive financial compensation, scholarship opportunities, and the potential to work for the company.
We spoke with Nish Patel, Founder of ClutchPoints, about why he created the HBCU initiative, why he wants to invest in underrepresented writers and athletes, and his consumer-focused approach.
It’s Game Time: The Origins of ClutchPoints
Andrew Byrd: Can you tell me about the process of creating ClutchPoints?
Nish Patel: I started a fan page centered around Derrick Rose on Facebook in 2012. I would create content around him, and it eventually blew up to a viewership of 100,000 fans. Unfortunately, Rose got a torn ACL injury that derailed his career, and that caused me to create a bigger picture outside of one athlete.
From there, I created Facebook pages dedicated to teams such as Bulls Nation or Warriors Nation. That method urged fans to interact with us and create content based on their interests. From the beginning, it was always about being “by fans, for fans.” We built out the community pages because genuine fans were connecting about their favorite teams. The communities grew to 20 million organic fans.
Eventually, we built pages on other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, but we encountered a problem. We had so many pages, but no one knew our brand.
From there, we launched the ClutchPoints in 2015. We hired writers, editors, and reporters who started compiling editorial content and intertwining it with our social and video content. We’ve now grown to a place where we get 30 million page views monthly, and we do close to a billion impressions on social media.
For Fans, by Fans: The HBCU Initiative
AB: Can you tell me about the process of creating the HBCU initiative at ClutchPoints? Why was this a significant move for your business?
NP: As I said, I’ve always followed the mantra “for fans, by fans.” The initiative started because we wanted to hit every single vertical. For example, when I started this, I built a Lakers fan page because I felt the mainstream media was not talking enough about them during their losing seasons.
So it came from the standpoint of, “what are news outlets not talking about?” The mainstream media coverage for HBCUs is generally lacking, and the same is true for the representation of HBCU sports in the media. HBCUs provide a unique perspective that I wanted to tell. I also wanted to tell the stories through their voices so the viewpoints would be authentic to the space. We plan to hire student writers with that goal in mind, but we also want to provide opportunities for new writers.
It was also crucial that we didn’t treat them as outliers. We wanted them to feel included like any other beat.
AB: ClutchPoints HBCU vertical includes video, social media, and podcast content. More media businesses are working to diversify the content they display. Was having a diversified range a part of your initial business goals? Do you plan to implement any new mediums to ClutchPoints?
NP: Yeah, in-arena reporting is critical to us. There’s something about getting fresh reactions for a big game or notable moments. Social media has also expanded drastically over the past couple of years. Now we have a team for each platform, including Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
But it is also essential to diversify content for each platform as well. You should create original content based on what works for each forum. It would help if you also evolved with the times. For example, long-form video used to be the go-to, but with the popularity of TikTok, short-form video is taking over. It’s really about figuring out what works for your brand.
Supporting Underrepresented Talent
AB: ClutchPoints is a minority-owned business. As a minority business owner with a media focus, do you see more opportunities and support coming to marginalized media spaces?
NP: That was one of the key reasons we applied for the minority certification. As the majority owner of this company, you see few people like me owning sports media businesses. I wanted to attend those meetings to see what other people were doing. My goal is to find other people in sports or even other media industries, so I can help them grow their vision and they can help mine as well.
And the HBCU initiative fits right in that vision. The primary owners in sports media are not heavily diverse, but this initiative gives opportunities to students who can change that. It fits the mold of how the company started, how it runs daily, and how I see it evolving in the future.
AB: Since the HBCU initiative is new, how do you envision it evolving?
NP: I see us hiring a few national writers that cover HBCU sports. We want to hone in on our social strategy and see what’s working so we can connect with the home base. That’s the key to everything, right? How do we get the initial base of people that trust and vibe with the brand and make them feel part of the community? That’s how you build an audience and foster community growth. Then the fans in that community help it grow further.
As far as content, we want to create a national library for prominent stories. Then we can create more niche content to see what is happening on each campus.