About Debbie Larry-Izamoje
Debbie Larry-Izamoje is the Chief Operating Officer of Brila Media Group, a Sports Media powerhouse continuously at the forefront of “sportainment” in Africa.
She is a Harvard-certified charismatic leader who successfully oversaw the rebranding of Nigeria’s first sports radio station, Brila FM, to Brila Media with inroads into the critical cities of Lagos, Abuja, Onitsha and Port Harcourt and an outstanding digital presence. Debbie passionately focuses on sustaining and improving the company’s legacy by pushing the brand’s relevance across the various social strata.
She currently leads a vibrant team of over 100 sports media professionals who are on a mission to transform the sports media landscape in Africa through storytelling, up-to-date digital strategies, stakeholder management and innovative systems.
Debbie has been an instrumental figure in different management committees of the Nigeria Women’s Football League. Her strategic input was crucial to the successful rebranding of the NWFL in 2020, and she played a similar role in the management team of the Aisha Buhari Invitational tournament in 2021. Currently, she is part of the task force for the NWFL in nation-building and empowering women through football.
In 2019, Debbie was recognised by global sports body WSCOIS as a young woman on the rise in sports and, in 2023, was listed by Power Women’s Network as one of the top 100 Powerful women in Nigeria.
She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Information Management from the University of Sheffield and a Master of Science in Management from University College London. Her academic pursuits include certificates in Innovation and Strategy from Harvard University and User Innovation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Furthermore, she holds certifications in Sports Business Management from the Lagos State Business School, Pan Atlantic University (LBS), as well as in Communication and Digital Media from the Sports Institute of Barcelona. Debbie’s diverse qualifications complement her extensive knowledge and expertise in multiple domains.
Prior to joining Brila, Debbie founded and managed a successful digital media agency called Image Boosters, which managed the communications of companies such as Mecure, Today’s Woman, SportyBet, PariMatch, and many more.
Can you share your journey and experiences that led you to your current role as a sports media executive?
After completing my Msc in Management at UCL and a certificate course in Harvard University, I was excited to return to Nigeria to put my newfound knowledge to use in the business world. I founded my own digital and creative agency, Image Boosters, with the intention of providing others with top-notch digital communications services. However, fate had different plans in store for me. As I continued to work in the digital marketing industry, I began to learn more about Brila, a sports radio station that was founded by my father, who also serves as the Chairman of the company.
The more I immersed myself in the business, its rich history, my father’s role in it, and the sports industry at large, the more I became captivated by it. It wasn’t long before I became fully committed to making my mark in it. My father began the process of succession planning, and I continued to leverage my knowledge of the digital world to connect with a younger and broader audience while working in various units of Brila for over six years. This allowed me to collaborate with a diverse array of stakeholders in marketing, finance, and other areas.
In October 2020, I was honored to accept the role of Chief Operating Officer, and it has been an incredible experience leading a multigenerational team. Guided by my unwavering commitment to excellence and my passion for the sports industry, I am eager to continue driving Brila’s growth and success well into the future.
What inspired you to pursue a career in sports media, specifically in radio?
Throughout the entirety of my life, I have maintained an unwavering passion for sports. This passion was instilled in me from a young age by my parents, who played a pivotal role in nurturing my deep appreciation for the world of sports. Even as a child, I was captivated by the hustle and bustle of Brila and the behind-the-scenes workings of the radio business. I eagerly embraced every opportunity to intern at the radio station, observing all the inner workings of this dynamic industry with fervor and enthusiasm.
While I initially pursued other career aspirations, my admiration for journalists and their ability to connect with fans and elicit powerful emotions through their content was something that I could not ignore. To me, the sports media represents an incredibly dynamic field, providing the perfect platform to thrive as a strategic communications professional with a keen eye for business development. The challenges presented by this industry are endless, but I relish each new opportunity to tackle fresh obstacles and find innovative solutions. My love for sports, combined with my strategic mindset and passion for business, has made me a valuable asset in this ever-evolving industry.
As a leader in the sports media industry, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in the African sports broadcasting landscape today?
In the sports industry, there is a prevailing issue where it is not given the due recognition it deserves. Rather than being acknowledged as a flourishing multibillion dollar sector, sports is often viewed as a mere pastime. This perception can be detrimental to the industry’s growth, especially when brands engage in ambush marketing tactics. Ambush marketing can hinder the production and sharing of quality content due to a lack of funding for new ideas.
Furthermore, the current climate of desiring quick wealth can make it difficult to mentor and cultivate new talent, which can disrupt the natural succession of the industry. It is essential that we acknowledge these challenges and collaborate to develop solutions that will not only benefit individual businesses, but also the sports industry as a whole. By working together, we can ensure that the industry continues to thrive and grow, while fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.
Can you tell us about a particularly challenging moment in your career and how you overcame it?
During the COVID-19 pandemic when the sports industry came to a sudden halt globally. It was a shock that caught me off guard, and I had very little time to prepare. Despite the confusion and uncertainty that came with the pandemic, our audience still relied on us to provide them with a source of entertainment. Internally, we faced several restrictions, which added to the stress. I learned to overcome these challenges by remaining calm even in the midst of chaos and trusting my instincts. It was also a testament to the importance of having a reliable and supportive team. The pandemic taught me the value of being adaptable and flexible, and I am proud of how we managed to navigate through the uncertainty even till now where businesses still struggle from the effects.
What strategies have you implemented to increase the reach and influence of your sports radio station in Africa?
My extensive background in digital marketing and running a digital agency, coupled with my certificate in Communication and Digital Media from the Sports Business Institute Barcelona, provided me with a unique perspective in media. Upon joining, we made the strategic decision to transform our traditional radio station into a comprehensive media house that catered to the needs of sports enthusiasts, both visually and audibly. Our objective was to transcend local boundaries and make a global impact. We fully embraced the digital realm as a catalyst for change, utilizing our online platforms on social media, our active website www.brila.net, and a listener-friendly application to connect with sports enthusiasts not only in Nigeria but across the diaspora. This shift was a narrative of evolution.
The outcome? Our reach didn’t just increase; we amplified our influence. Leveraging the digital space, we transformed into a global hub for sports news and entertainment. We’ve successfully bridged gaps and connected fans worldwide.
How do you ensure that your sports radio station provides diverse and inclusive coverage of sports, including both men’s and women’s sports?
We wholeheartedly prioritize both gender sports and there is no room for sentiment or bias in our commitment to publishing authentic content and promoting games from both genders equally. Take, for instance, the recent Women’s World Cup – it serves as a prime example of our dedication. We harnessed all our channels, both radio and digital, to actively advocate for the event and encourage brands to seize the untapped opportunities it presented. The same unwavering support extends to the many competitions by the men, where we leave no stone unturned. Behind the scenes we also ensure each gender has a voice as we continue to unlearn and relearn expectations even from the people we serve.
What role do you see sports media playing in promoting gender equality and inclusivity in the African sports industry?
I believe sports media plays a crucial role in promoting gender equality and inclusivity in the African sports industry. By showcasing female athletes and providing equal coverage and opportunities for women’s sports, sports media can help break down traditional gender stereotypes and pave the way for more women to participate and succeed in sports. Additionally, sports media has the power to highlight the stories and experiences of marginalized communities within the sports industry, such as athletes with disabilities. We have the potential to be a powerful force for positive change in the African sports industry even by hiring and giving room for more women to thrive behind the scenes. I truly hope to see continued efforts towards greater gender equality and inclusivity in the years to come.
African sports have a unique flavor and culture. How do you ensure that your radio station captures and reflects this cultural richness in its coverage?
Our presentation styles on radio primarily feature a blend of English and Pidgin, and we seamlessly transition into other Nigerian and African languages as needed to connect with our audience. Our presenters are highly skilled, many are proficient speakers of many indigenous languages. Our Wednesdays are dedicated to dialoguing in your mother tongue, and I love the seamless interaction between the fans and presenters especially the banter! I also must add that our website(www.brila.net) constantly promoting the essence and wealth of Africa by shining light on the positive achievements of African players both home and abroad.
In what ways do you support and encourage young talent, especially women, to pursue careers in sports media within your organization?
I’m proud to say that over the past years, we have actively employed more women, channeling their creativity into the world of sports. We believe in providing equal opportunities and support to young talent, especially women, by fostering an inclusive environment where their voices are heard and their careers in sports media can thrive. I personally mentor a few women I know would love to join this field after their studies. I’m also constantly using my social media platforms to highlight key events in the industry so people truly understand what it means to work in sports business.
As a leader, what advice would you give to aspiring sports media professionals, especially women, looking to make their mark in the industry?
It is important to be confident in your abilities and not be discouraged by any obstacles or setbacks you may encounter. It’s also helpful to build a network of supportive mentors and colleagues who can offer guidance and advice along the way. As a woman in the industry, it’s crucial to advocate for yourself and others and to strive for equality and representation in all aspects of the field. Ultimately, success in sports media requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the industry.
Can you share any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives your sports radio station is working on?
We have some exciting projects in the works! Although I am unable to disclose all the details at this time, rest assured that we have some amazing partnerships and collaborations lined up that I know fans will absolutely love. Our team has worked tirelessly to create a wealth of content that we are eager to share with you on the best available platforms. We are also being more mindful about our match coverage to ensure that our Gen Z audience remains engaged. Additionally, we are partnering with various sports federations to showcase their incredible work. Follow us on all platforms to stay up-to-date on our latest news and content. Missing out is not an option!