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Idea Test Lab helps Penn State junior gain a following for social media business

A young Justin Leusner would walk around places like Hershey Park and the Wells Fargo Center just like any other kid, looking to enjoy what was around him.

People would often recognize him from the YouTube videos he started making at 10 years old, some of which had hundreds of thousands of views.

“Are you ‘You’re Fired?’,” they’d ask, referring to his first YouTube channel.

By the time he was in high school, Leusner had already built a brand on YouTube, and that’s led the now-Penn State junior to make big-time strides with his company, TDAY Sports.

Leusner created the social media startup in 2022 and touts it as “Gen-Z’s ESPN.” The company utilizes fast-paced content to attract and connect with younger audiences regarding sports.

Though it launched just last year, the plan had been in the making since 2013, when the Moorestown, New Jersey, native started “You’re Fired.”

“It was just silly videos of me playing video games, going to sports games, vlogs, challenges,” Leusner said. “I would go home every day from fourth grade to junior year in high school, and just make videos, and I loved it.”

Once his channel took off, it became the first piece of starting TDAY Sports as part of the Happy Valley LaunchBox’s idea test lab program.

Just a year in, TDAY Sports, which started as Basketball TDAY, has amassed more than 600,000 followers on Instagram and, according to its website, has garnered 170 million monthly impressions.

Leusner was confident TDAY Sports would be able to accomplish such a huge following due to the years of experience he came in with, along with the help Happy Valley LaunchBox was able to give.

“Being in social media like eight or nine years — at that point — I knew that whatever my next project was was gonna work,” Leusner said. “And I have good people around me that will teach me along the way.”

After starting by himself, Leusner found himself hiring too many people, which made it harder to have everyone buy in and not treat TDAY Sports like a club.

His LaunchBox advisor, Elizabeth Hay, suggested a team of 12 people, which is much easier to manage. By following her advice, TDAY Sports made a huge leap and even gained a partnership with Gatorade’s Fast-Twitch beverage — something that even Leusner didn’t expect to accomplish so early on.

At that point, TDAY Sports became more than just a club to put on the resume, and it earned the potential to go far outside of Penn State.

“One of our missions at TDAY Sports is to help everyone land their dream job,” Leusner said. “Whether it’s with us or not.”

Outside of its big following, TDAY Sports has put a focus on building relationships with its customers — part of where “Gen-Z’s ESPN” comes from. The approach had already been a part of Leusner’s character.

“I kind of made sure every day, before I went to bed, I responded to every single DM,” Leusner said about his time growing his personal brand. “We want to continue that.”

Leusner explained that when talking to customers, he saw that it was hard for them to watch other sports brands as the analysts and anchors typically lack a connection with the audience. TDAY Sports’ heavy use of social media was an easy fix for this, though.

TDAY Sports has multiple sub-accounts on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Discord, such as Football TDAY, Best Hoops, Baseball TDAY and others.

With these, TDAY Sports even livestreams, giving fans a chance to interact with the social media bunch.

Leusner is set to graduate in December 2024 but isn’t done with his company. With the growth that it has made, TDAY Sports is set to expand into a remote brand and have members in different parts of the country.

“I’m gonna do this after I graduate for as long as I can,” Leusner said. “We’re gonna have people all across the country being able to build relationships.”

Even though the company has done so much, it’s still young and has strategic initiatives that will help it look to do even more.

With that, Leusner is excited and looks forward to the upcoming year.

“We’ve dialed in our team to make sure it’s only five-star talent with passion,” Leusner said. “It’s gonna be a good year.”