• NELK Boys: Behind-the-scenes of their Multi-million Dollar Business

    NELK Boys: Behind-the-scenes of their Multi-million Dollar Business

    Who are NELK Boys?

    NELK, or the NELK Boys firstly started as a pure prank YouTube channel where the boys would play pranks on the public in a variety of hilarious ways to garner reactions.

    The original crew consisted of three Canadians: Kyle ForgeardJesse Sabastiani, and Lucas Gasparini.

    They are from the Mississauga area of Ontario Canada who formed a bond over their love for making humorous YouTube videos.

    Kyle and Lucas have been friends since childhood and Jesse got involved in the mix early on.

    View NELK’s CreatorDB profile here

    Nelk Boys in their early days
    NELK boys currently have 7.87m YouTube subscribers.

    In 2010, Kyle formed the YouTube channel called NelkFilmz with his best friend Lucas and two other friends, Niko and Marko Martinovic.

    Kyle and his crew began to film prank videos on YouTube for the next 3 years as they started to gain some local traction.

    Around this time in late 2013, Kyle rebranded his YouTube channel name to simply NELK and began upping his game regarding the quality of his content and the risks he was taking to execute pranks.

    Want to see NELK’s key YouTube metrics? Click here to view their CreatorDB profile

    As a result, he made a connection that allowed him to attend the 2014 MTV Canada conference where he met Jesse Sabastiani.

    At the time, Jesse was filming for MTV Canada doing a country-style, Canadian version of the show Jackass.

    Kyle and Jesse saw eye-to-eye on many ideas early on so they decided to start filming together. Later Jesse officially joined the group and left his MTV Canada career.

    NELK and their first viral video

    At this point in NELK’s journey, their leading brand was prank videos with some occasional beer drinking taking place. NELK was working on a very strict budget, and they had to sleep at the houses of fans as they road-tripped around America to film their videos.

    Their thriftiness began to pay off as it was an easy way to directly connect with their fan base. It has also forged many opportunities for creating viral moments on the internet, one of their first being its “Coke on Cops” prank in 2015.

    In this video, Kyle and his crew purposely park illegally and act sketchy as a police officer approaches them.

    After some questioning from the officer, Kyle blurts out that they have Coke in the back.

    The boys had a Go-Pro rigged to the top of the trunk so the viewers could see the officer’s reaction as she uncovered a pile of Coke cans.

    At the time the cop seemed somewhat amused, but the LAPD later released a statement stating that they were none too pleased, and the prank was technically a crime.

    Coke Prank on Cops” became the second most viewed video of all time from NELK Boys

    With the boys avoiding legal trouble, this video marked the beginning of their YouTube notoriety.

    Despite this close run-in with the law, NELK continued to push the boundaries with their pranks, some of their most recognizable ones being their fake employee videos.

    NELK would acquire a specific uniform for a large corporate store (usually from a fan) and would film videos pretending to be employees at the store and messing with both the customers and staff.

    These videos would prove to have their consequences though as they were banned from many stores and local Canadian law enforcement started to take notice. However, the boldness and hilarity of their pranks created an extremely rabid and supportive fan base.

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    NELK Boys with rising fame

    At this point, NELK was beginning to build a cult-like following on the internet which proved to be their saving grace and path to success.

    A major portion of the early NELK story revolves around their constant battles with YouTube which would constantly age-restrict and demonetize their videos seemingly without cause in certain cases.

    This type of punishment nearly put the boys out of business as they were no longer able to make ends meet from ad revenue on YouTube alone.

    It was this combination of a need for an alternative revenue source and their rabid fan base that created the perfect storm for NELK to start making some serious money with their merchandise sales.

    From the beginning, the NELK boys employed a unique strategy when it came to releasing their merchandise.

    Unlike most influencers who have an online store with a nearly constant supply of their various merchandise items, NELK has consistently done what they call “merch drops” about five times a year.

    They also never re-released any of the items in future merch drops.

    This scarcity strategy has allowed them to always sell out their inventory and also be able to charge continuously more expensive prices as the demand for their items continues to grow by making them more and more exclusive.

    The early and immediate success of NELK’s merch drops propelled them into a higher tier on the YouTube creator ladder.

    The increase in money and fame allowed the boys to pursue things like travel, collaborations with other influencers, higher quality videos, and a larger team to help support these things. Specifically, NELK was able to relocate to the center of entertainment, Los Angeles.

    On top of moving locations, the boys were also invited by FaZe Banks of the famous e-gaming company, FaZe Clan, to move into his influencer-focused house called “The Clout House,” which has been home for many mega influencers like FaZe Banks, Ricegum and Sommer Ray.

    This provided NELK with a group of large influencers within the same living space as them which helped their name and brand to spread across Los Angeles and the internet.

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    NELK and Full Send

    Another genius creation of the NELK boys was their tagline “Full Send” which is a saying that represents going all out for something, in the case of the boys’ brand, partying and drinking.

    The brand tagline “Full Send” fits perfectly with their LA celebrity lifestyle, populated by parties with copious amounts of alcohol and scantily clad women.

    NELK was able to exponentially grow the popularity of their brand through videos covering their partying life mixed in with their classic prank bits.

    It was at this point, going into 2019 when NELK truly began its takeover of YouTube and the influencer scene.

    SteveWillDoIt Joins the Gang

    In May of 2019, Kyle struck gold when he found a young man by the name of Steve Deleonardis on Instagram who was gaining popularity for his insane drinking, smoking, and eating challenges.

    Steve was an instant hit with the NELK fans as he fits in perfectly with his crude sense of humor and love for alcohol.

    His drinking and eating challenges were so outlandish and popular that he formed his channel on YouTube called “SteveWillDoIt” in addition to being a mainstay in NELK videos.

    Screenshot of stevewilldoit post about being demonetized on YouTube.
    The original SteveWillDoIt YouTube channel was removed due to the indirect promotion of gambling. Steve opened up about the ban by posting a screenshot of a notification that claimed he “severely or repeatedly violated” community guidelines on the platform.

    Steve’s fan base multiplied and he was able to amass one million subscribers just in the first month of creating his YouTube channel.

    This move proved to be very fruitful for both Steve and NELK as a whole because although Steve was a later addition to the NELK crew, he was able to form a close relationship with his fans much faster through his channel.

    This allowed him to be a hilarious, alcohol-consuming force in NELK videos as the original NELK fan base quickly understood and accepted what Steve brought to the group.

    Following the new NELK business model, Steve and the crew could immediately capitalize on his addition through their exclusive merch drops.

    Want to see NELK’s key metrics? Click here to view the CreatorDB profile

    Essentially, a whole new brand line was created for Steve-specific merch that ranged from T-shirts and hoodies to a glass boot to drink beer from called “Steve’s Boot.” Throughout the rest of 2019, it was reported that the NELK boys would consistently sell enough merchandise to generate seven figures of revenue on their drop days.

    At the end of the year, the NELK boys felt like it was time to use some of that money to move to their own space where they could also house their growing team of employees.

    In February 2020, NELK officially moved out of the Clout House and into their mansion (also in LA) which they dubbed “The Full Send House.”

    The naming of the house may seem simple, but it was very meaningful to the boys as their main goal was to start to grow the Full Send brand to new heights.

    They wanted to not only continue to grow the Full Send clothing line into a legit streetwear brand but also expand it into a lifestyle brand that is recognizable to a wide demographic of people.

    Stevewilldoit branded boot-glass
    Photo courtesy of eBay

    NELK Boys and their full-blown business

    In early 2020, NELK’s growing rabid fan base allowed them to take even bigger business and content risks as their whole operation was being funded entirely by their fans. YouTube had completely demonetized their channel and there weren’t any brands interested in using the group to sponsor their products given the edgy and sometimes controversial nature of their videos.

    From here on out, NELK was able to get involved in the development and selling of various types of products to support its goal of making Full Send a complete lifestyle brand.

    The boys were still very calculated with the types of products they started to develop by sticking to what they knew. One of their first ventures into a product not involved in their clothing & small accessories line was workout supplements and equipment.

    Want to see NELK’s key YouTube metrics? Click here to view their CreatorDB profile

    In late 2019, the boys realized they needed to do something to combat the toxic nature of their constant partying and celebrity lifestyles so they started hitting the gym and lifting weights. Around this time they also started to collaborate with a YouTube workout influencer named Bradley Martin.

    Bradley soon became a mainstay in many of the group’s videos and vice versa regarding the boys being in some of Bradley’s workout videos.

    This collaboration was another one that proved to be very fruitful as the NELK boys were now getting exposure amongst a workout-focused demographic which further diversified their fanbase and made their videos about more than just pranks and partying, but a certain way of life.

    The NELK boys’ ventures into new products and fan bases came at a great time as the world was about to experience a tragedy that would drive people to greatly increase the time they spent on the internet and YouTube in particular.

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused governments around the world to enforce stay-at-home mandates and prevent people from going to work which forced many people to spend much of their greatly increased free time perusing the internet.

    Screenshot of the post announcing a merch drop from the Nelk Boys

    At first, it proved to be a tough transition for NELK as all of their videos required them to be able to interact with the public in some way.

    However, they were able to weather the storm early on by adapting their videos until they were able to travel to different states around the country that had fewer restrictions as California was one of the most locked-down states.

    Media exposure soaring

    Many people took issue with the NELK boys continuing their pranks during a global pandemic but it didn’t matter and proved to pay off as the online demand for new content was at an all-time high, especially amongst people in NELK’s average age demographic of young adults.

    This caused NELK’s subscriber total and overall media exposure to soar.

    Now that the boys had garnered a large amount of mainstream media coverage, they were starting to get noticed by big-name celebrities who were fans of what they were doing.

    One of the most notable relationships the NELK boys formed was with UFC President Dana White.

    This led to the boys getting invited to fight nights which created amazing content for their videos and to a clothing collaboration that featured a UFC x Full Send t-shirt.

    This was a match made in heaven as it was another catalyst that helped expand NELK’s fan base and it also fits very well with the already-formed workout component of Full Send’s lifestyle brand.

    The Nelk Boys hanging out with UFC's president Dana White.
    Photo courtesy of talkSPORT

    Possibly one of the most important relationships to the transformation of Full Send into a lifestyle brand was a lucky opportunity the boys got through Dana White that was completely unrelated to fighting or the UFC.

    They met President Donald Trump on Air Force One before one of his presidential rallies.

    The President even brought the boys on stage at the end of his rally to shake hands and be introduced to the crowd.

    This was the first time that NELK had been involved in anything political and even though they never state their personal political views, the fact that they got to meet and be a part of the sitting President’s political rally showed the world how far past just pranks and jokes the NELK boys and most importantly their Full Send brand had grown.

    The year 2020 proved to be huge for the growth of Full Send but it had also clearly taken a toll on the boys as they were constant targets of law enforcement, had to adjust to new COVID restrictions, and traveled across the U.S. and out of the country to find less restricted areas to film content.

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    It was because of this that during NELK’s annual holiday video break one of the founding members, Jesse Sabastiani, decided to remove himself from the content side of NELK to focus solely on the business side of the Full Send brand.

    He took over everything related to the development of the Full Send brand from designing new clothing items to coming up with new lifestyle items like Full Send skateboard decks, poker chip sets, ashtrays, and many other items that fit the brand’s lifestyle.

    In addition to this, he started a new Full Send-specific YouTube channel where he documents his life behind the scenes of the business.

    Jesse taking over the main role in the development of the Full Send brand was one of the most important moves that NELK made in 2021.

    With his intimate relationship and knowledge of the NELK fan base, Jesse was able to better target the type of new lifestyle items to invest in.

    Also, Jesse’s separate “FULL SEND” YouTube channel turned into a huge hit among NELK fans and gave them a new appreciation for the complexity of the Full Send brand.

    However, the most impactful move that NELK made for their brand in 2021 was the release of their alcoholic beverage, a hard seltzer brand called Happy Dad.

    Although the release of Happy Dad happened in June 2021, it’s already proving to be a huge hit with most stores selling out of the hard seltzer on the first day of its release.

    The Nelk Boys hanging out with Snoop Dog

    This makes perfect sense as NELK tapped into the ultimate product for the Full Send lifestyle brand because they were able to go back to their roots of drinking and partying and execute a product that is accepted and consumed more broadly in society.

    Full Send now produces a product that is both attractive to its cult-like fan base and the general public.

    Happy Dad seems to have fully transitioned Full Send into a lifestyle brand now that it can reach everyday people who aren’t familiar with the NELK boys. In other words, you no longer need to be someone who watches YouTube and is a fan of pranks and crude humor to want to support the Full Send brand.

    This is the true power of the creator economy or influencers in general, to build real businesses while using their fandom as a huge jumpstart. The only question that remains now is: what product or industry will the NELK boys try to take over next?

    Streaming debut

    On October 26, 2023, the upcoming streaming platform Kick announced that Nelk was going to start streaming live on their platform the next day.

    In less than a week the group collected over 25K followers on the new platform and streamed one of their pranks live and their Halloween party.

    Until now Kick was going after established streamers and trying to snatch them from other platforms like YouTube and Twitch with multimillionaire deals.

    But with Nelk they took a gamble and signed a group with a large online following but no streaming background.

    Their first live stream brought in many eyes but is still up to see if they will be able to conquer this new medium.

    FAQs

    1. How do the NELK Boys navigate legal and ethical considerations given the controversial nature of some of their pranks and content?

    The NELK Boys likely have a team to handle legal matters and ensure compliance, especially given their history of controversial pranks.

    2. What specific strategies do the NELK Boys use to maintain and grow their fan base, especially on platforms outside of YouTube?

    They probably use diverse content and engagement strategies across social platforms to keep their audience engaged and growing.

    3. How has the inclusion of new members like SteveWillDoIt influenced the group dynamics and content strategy of the NELK Boys?

    SteveWillDoIt’s addition likely brought new dynamics and content ideas, further diversifying the group’s appeal and content strategy.

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