An online sensation who began making videos in his bedroom in Co Londonderry has amassed nearly six million subscribers around the world for his hit YouTube channel.
Although he now lives in the USA, Craig Thompson, known to adoring fans as Mini Ladd, has not forgotten his roots.
Those in rugby circles will be familiar with his name as it adorns City of Derry’s ground which was renamed in his honour after a generous sponsorship deal with the club.
Craig himself had a trial with Ulster Rugby before choosing to pursue a full time career as a YouTuber.
His Mini Ladd channel has 5.74 million subscribers while another 1.13 million follow his updates as Craig Thompson. Such is the 24-year-old’s popularity that he is currently on a sell-out tour of the US.
Earlier this year, Craig was named number three out of the Top 100 Influencers in the UK by the Sunday Times.
Craig started his YouTube channel – an improvised comedy show about video games aimed at 12 to 16-year-olds – in the summer of 2011 when he was at Foyle College. He set himself a goal of 100 subscribers that summer and although he didn’t quite reach it, he was convinced with a bit of hard work the followers would come. And so they did in their tens of thousands.
He briefly went to university in England before dropping out to concentrate on making it as a YouTuber to which end he moved to LA.
He said: “I’m the Northern Ireland contingent when it comes to YouTube. There’s a lot of responsibility on me out here.
“I understand that not everyone gets YouTube and finds it hard to understand how people make a living from it.”
He explained you can make money through advertising clicks, sponsorship and being paid by companies to include their products in your show. In addition you can have spin-off tours and merchandise.
Craig said: “YouTube is open to everyone unlike TV. You don’t have to go through agencies or be told what to say or do or wear by TV companies. On YouTube people’s real personalities get to shine.”
The 24-year-old has used his position for philanthropic purposes, raising over 150,000 dollars for the Thirst Project, bringing safe drinking water to third world communities. He is currently lending his support to #TeamTrees, a global tree planting project.
He said: “I’m in a weird position where there’s a lot of people watching me. I want to use my influence to make a positive change.”
Craig’s mum is from Claudy while his dad is English. He was born in Dubai before the family moved to Eglinton when he was 10: “They still live there. I try to get home a few times a year. Family is really important to me.”
He plans visit at Christmas and go to the rugby club which bears his name on Boxing Day.
The renaming of City of Derry stadium came about after Craig gave the club money to boost youth development: “To me it was more about attracting more young players to the club with better facilities. If my names helps do that it’s a bonus.”