Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Behind the scenes with Omar El Sherbini, a man with a passion and vision for squash

Founder of InSocial says: “We are building ideas to market squash on a worldwide basis”

Everyone in squash knows about the phenomenal success achieved by Egypt at every level on the international stage.

As someone who is also involved with trying to grow the game at multiple levels, I am curious to find out their secrets, the stories from behind the scenes, and give credit to some of the unsung heroes whose work may otherwise go unnoticed.

The whole squash community is in awe of the phenomenal achievements of Nour El Sherbini, who was good enough to win major professional tournaments while still a junior and has recently claimed her sixth World Championship title.

Today I want to write about her brother, Omar, who has helped his sister for much of that journey and is now making a name for himself in delivering solutions for squash in the areas of technology, marketing and social media.

In a country that was in political turmoil a decade ago, Omar is a leading player in guiding Egypt towards a brighter, modern future.

Let’s meet Omar El Sherbini.

“I started my career working at i-events with Amr Mansi, mainly on squash tournaments. I stayed there for almost nine years.

“During that period I worked on the technical side of the squash events. I worked on eight El Gouna tournaments and three Egyptian Opens by the Pyramids, and also two World Championships, one in El Gouna and one by the Pyramids.

“My main role was arranging everything with the PSA, starting with the tournament registration, liaising with the players, assembling the glass court and everything to make the event successful.

“Till that date I was also working with my sister Nour, as well managing all aspects of her career, including her coaching staff, her commercial deals and appearances, and sometimes I got involved in coaching when needed.

“I have always been heavily involved in squash and at some point in my career I wanted to do something for myself, something that involved my degree in marketing. While working at various squash events I noticed a market gap in digital marketing so I decided to start my own company, called InSocial.

“The idea came from the fact that previously we had run successful campaigns for Nour to make her one of the most promoted female athletes in Egypt. So why not try the same methods and techniques with the events?

“Moving forward we wanted to grow squash even more, so we decided to introduce live events coverage on social media. We wanted to report behind the scene events happening during the tournament to people everywhere. We wanted to show everyone what’s happening in the event in depth and not just reporting results.

“Our campaigns has served El Gouna Squash Open from 2019-2022 and the World Championships this year, held for the first time at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, which turned out to be a brilliant, inspiring venue.

“We are aiming to introduce new marketing ideas to market squash worldwide, and in the coming period we are looking to go in depth with the players, showcasing their lives and daily routines.

“Now InSocial has grown even bigger to serve big clients in Egypt and we are extending our services to Dubai so we can serve the MENA region as well.”

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I was interested in Omar’s back story and asked him to dig a little deeper to provide some more details about some of his favourite projects and what made them successful. He replied:

“My favourite event is El Gouna, of course, where I share so many memories there and recently the Egyptian Open by the Pyramids. It’s a magical experience.

“For the events we wanted to create awareness, so for people who are already squash fans we thought of ideas to get them involved with the players, like win a prize or get a personalised message from your favourite players, and these methods worked.

“For people who are not involved in squash, we wanted to create the FOMO feeling (Fear Of Missing Out) like for example sending messages like ‘this is the biggest squash event in the world and it’s coming to Egypt – you will get a chance to watch the world’s top players and win prizes’. This worked with some people who follow sports in general and wouldn’t miss an event like that.

“Our campaigns also stressed an engagement with the players on a personal level. Instead of just posting the results we get personal with players. We caught genuine reactions from the family of each player, with Ali Farag and Nour sharing a moment before a match. We wanted to show things that SquashTV cameras couldn’t catch and this is how we were able to build successful campaigns.

“Everyone follows the official tournament accounts so they can see exclusive content and this was the idea from the beginning, to think out of the box and promote squash at the same time.

“For Nour, we have positioned her to be No.1 in people’s minds. Her followers on social media always congratulate her, even if she is losing. We created this image of her of being on top of the game by sending messages that trigger people’s thoughts that when they think of squash they only know Nour. And I believe this worked in her favour as well, so that she always feels special and good about herself when she checks her social media feed during down periods.”

How receptive is the traditional media in Egypt to the advances in social media?

“The traditional media is still huge in Egypt and some people see it as more legitimate than social media. However, this is changing but in a slower pace than other countries. Egypt’s internet users are growing day after day and I believe this will play a huge role in how social media will have an impact in Egypt moving forward.”

How have you built partnerships with clients?

“Well, we listen to them carefully, we study their objectives, and at the end of the day we provide a service so we are always there at their service 24/7.

“We are a group of people who all studied marketing so mix both the theoretical part and the practical part of the job. We do market research, and we take our time doing things because our aim is long-term results and this is what keeps our clients for a very long time.”

How many staff do you have and where are your offices?

“We are around 20 full-time employees and 30 part-time. We have offices in Cairo and Alexandria, and are soon to open our first international office in Dubai by October 2022.”

Are you looking at using your knowledge and skills outside of Egypt?

“Yes, we would love to, and that’s why we will expand to Dubai. Our culture in Egypt is similar to that of the UAE, however, Dubai has an international base of clients that we would like to approach. It will be challenging at the beginning, but we are planning to use our resources in addition to local talents that understand the market and its behaviour and hopefully it works out.”

How do you see the future of squash developing in Egypt?

“Squash is developing immensely in Egypt. Compounds, clubs and all the new cities – they all include new squash courts. The junior base is still huge and is growing. I hope they maintain that for a long period of time.”

Who are SODIC and what role do they have to play in the future of squash?

“Sodic is a huge real-estate developer. Recently they have been involved in squash, which is a good sign to have someone alongside CIB so we can continue having major tournaments.”

Omar added:

“I would like to thank Alan and Squash Mad. It’s good to be acknowledged. The interview is very diverse, which is why I love it. I am always happy speaking about squash and marketing and my future plans.”


Background: Omar El Sherbini, Managing Director of InSocial

Omar El Sherbini is the Managing Director of Insocial, a leading design house and social media management agency that serves mostly the event industry across the MENA Region.
Omar has introduced live sports social media coverage on several global events that took place in Egypt across different cities, such as El Gouna International Squash Open & The Egyptian Squash Open, mastering all the behind-the-scenes and live coverage updates while engaging audiences with his own signature style of cultivating memorable experiences, enhancing fan engagements at live sporting events to an entirely new level.
Now, InSocial is one of the leading agencies in Egypt offering event conceptualizations and designs alongside its unique live social media coverage service.
Being a former squash player, Omar spent most of his childhood playing squash and touring the world. Displaying exceptional leadership and managerial traits, Omar is also the brother of Nour El Sherbini, with whom he spent seven years managing and overseeing the sponsorships, events, social media and branding to cement the six-time world champion’s place as one of the most sought-after athletes in the MENA region.
After graduating from the Business School of Normandie in the North of France, and with the events business being one of his passions from a very young age, Omar went on to pursue a career in the field.
El Sherbini debuted as an event coordinator at I-events, a leading event agency in Egypt, until he became the Technical Director of one of the most iconic squash events in Egypt, the Egyptian Squash Open that took place by the Great Pyramids of Giza. Omar has also played a role in major events such as the El Gouna Film Festival.


Pictures courtesy of Omar El Sherbini and InSocial 


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