How 433 Became the Biggest Soccer Community in the World

For 10 years, Danny Cortenraede worked in the telecoms and consumer electronics industry. He spent six years working at Vodafone before joining Sony and then T-Mobile.

Ready for a new challenge, he left his high-paying corporate job to venture into the unknown world of entrepreneurship, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Cortenraede created media firm Enterprise Media, and after a successful sale, continued to found and invest in various other businesses.

In 2015, he struck gold by co-founding Wannahaves, a digital media agency, which handles content creation, branded content, graphics and more for sister company, 433. Originally begun as a soccer-focused Twitter account in 2012 by Rogier Deelstra and partners Juul Manders, Demy de Zeeuw, and Ralph de Geus, 433 shifted its focus to Instagram a year later and hasn’t looked back—today it boasts 44 million followers across all platforms and roughly 5 billion monthly impressions.

“We saw an opportunity at that time—we started at the right time and with the right strategy,” Cortenraede said. “We are with the players. We are part of the community. … It’s super important to really claim a niche, then also a niche within a niche.”

Within its first year, 433 grew to 2.3 million Instagram followers. Today, the main account (@433) has 31.7 million followers, including 15,000 professional soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Sergio Ramos.

Wannahaves and 433 have also worked with some of the biggest clubs and leagues in the world including FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Los Angeles Galaxy, LAFC, Bundesliga, and Major League Soccer. Not only that, but they’ve created content with brands like adidas, Nike, Heineken, Puma, Budweiser, and Red Bull, and worked with EA Sports to launch FIFA 21 and utilized their network of athletes and influencers to create content surrounding Activision’s release of Call of Duty.

“We’ve built it with snackable content,” Cortenraede said. “Short content is the sweet spot for us. … Obviously if we post something from (Lionel) Messi, Ronaldo or another big player that will drive engagement on our content, but we also distribute other content like tricks and goals.”

Cortenraede said 433’s audience is primarily 13-25 year olds with the core between 16-24, with it skewing mostly male (~85%).

Growing between 10,000 and 20,000 followers each day, Wannahaves/433 continues to expand its operations, now with more than 200 employees across offices in Amsterdam, New York City (opened in 2018) and Los Angeles (opened in 2020).

The company isn’t resting on its laurels, though, as it continues to serve as “The Home of Football.” Cortenraede said 433 is creating premium content via its 433 Studios and continues to expand into the niches within soccer—including women’s and esports—as well as venturing into other sports.

Powered by 433, Visubal encompasses all sports and features 6.2 million Instagram followers, directly competing for Gen Z and millennial eyeballs with Bleacher Report (14.2 million) and House of Highlights (20 million). Cortenraede also identified Copa90 as a soccer-specific competitor to 433.

“Within soccer, we want to be the biggest, but also tap into more of the high-premium content,” he said. “We have other more niche channels and are tapping into other sports like NBA and NFL, especially because we’re now located in the U.S., so it’s important to be part of the biggest sports in the country.”

For Cortenraede, his journey as an entrepreneur and investor toes the line between going full throttle with an idea while still employing a pragmatic approach full of endless amounts of testing and research. He advises anyone else looking to make the leap to do the same, citing the slogan from one of 433’s partners.

“It is ‘Just do it,’” he said. “You need to grab the opportunity and go for it. It’s a lot of doing but on the other hand, there’s a lot of research. It is difficult to start your own company and it isn’t easy. It’s really important to understand what you’re doing. 

“If you’re launching a product, for example, don’t just launch the product but dive deep into it—is it really solving a problem, what’s the market—and then scale. I believe in a lot of testing to see if things are working. If it’s working, go full speed and grab it.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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