We have unlocked the secret to student sections and offer the solution to the industry wide problem. Here you will learn about how we got here and how you will too.
1) A student section can be the greatest asset or liability to an athletics program
2) Games need to be experiences for students because they are the #1 priority
3) Student sections should not be operated by marketing administration or built on promos
4) There is never a finish line to student section growth
5) Student sections are a mere reflection of their student leaders (good or bad)
6) Belief and hard work are the only path forward for any student section
Part 1) The beginning...
It all started in 2012 when six friends and I (Brandon) went to every home men's basketball game at Grand Canyon University. This was GCU's last year as a Division 2 school—but my friends and I figured D2 was better than high school. We painted up, we stood in the front and we lost our voice every game. The student section at the time was called "The Monsoon Section" but there was no structure and they gave away prizes at games (TVs, Ipods, Xboxes, Beats). This was frustrating because I never won a prize even though I was in the front row, standing and cheering, every game.
Part 2) The birth of the Havocs...
In the summer of 2013, I saw an advertisement at school looking for student section leaders. Since they were transitioning to Division 1 that year and I was already unofficially leading the student section, I applied and was offered the position with two other guys. Senior administrators cast the vision of becoming a mid-major powerhouse in athletics and the student section and authorized me to run it. At the time, the Monsoon Section was the student section and The Havocs were the "craziest part of the Monsoon" and there were only 165 spots. We averaged 150 students at games and there was brand confusion.
Part 3) Unlocking the vision...
Heading into my Junior year, I recruited two of my best friends to become leaders. We realized there should not be two brands so we dropped The Monsoon Section. The Havocs were unleashed. We worked tirelessly every week posting on social media, handing out flyers, dorm storming, doing pep rallies with spirit programs and doing whatever it took to try and convince students to show up to our pre-game events, stand and cheer with us. We averaged 500 students each game—but I vividly remember a game when only 75 showed up—but we didn't give up. Momentum was building.
Part 4) The rise to new heights...
By the end of my Junior year, we had learned a lot and were ready to scale. We recruited leaders for the following year bringing our student leadership team to nine. We worked the whole summer getting ready for the upcoming year. We had big goals and high expectations. We created an extensive marketing plan (yes, as students) and hit incoming freshmen hard at orientation and welcome week. Taylor (see below) planned an unbelievable Midnight Madness with over 4,000 students. If you went to a game and you were a student, you were a Havoc. But our craziest students wanted more, so we offered a pass where they paid a fee and received exclusive perks. We sold 1,200 in two hours. We averaged 2,500 students at games in a 6,000 seat arena—every student standing and engaged—every game. We finished the year with 10k+ followers on social media. January of my Senior Year is when GCU was dubbed'The Biggest Party in College Basketball'.
Part 5) The lasting legacy...
The best part about all of this is the Havocs have only continued to grow and get better after I graduated (2016) partly due to the top down support—but especially due to the unbelievably robust leadership culture and systems we implemented. In 2017, Rick Pitino (former Head Coach at Louisville) said GCU was 'the toughest crowd he's ever faced' and 'tougher than Kentucky or Duke' (watch the video here). The Havocs leaders continue to replace themselves with talented and capable leaders. People meet and get married in the Havocs (true story). Students attend GCU just to be a leader. Their social media outlets continues to expand. They sell out their passes in minutes. And it all started with a couple crazy students cheering at games with passion, vision and a desire to leave a legacy.
We work with a growth mindset and a relentless spirit to help partners get the job done. We have "been there and done that" building student sections from the ground up. We care about the experience of the students on your campus. We understand the challenges of building a student section. We leave no stone unturned and cover every detail. We are here to see you succeed.
Brandon Kaiser—Founder and CEO
Founder of the GCU Havocs, 'The Biggest Party in College Basketball' (check out their Instagram here) and former President of the National Collegiate Student Section Association. Click here to view a gallery of videos of the Havocs.
Robbie Hill—Vice President of Collegiate Partnerships
A former collegiate marketing administrator, Robbie realized he was powerless over the student section and only saw results when he empowered student leaders. Now he works relentlessly to build meaningful relationships in the collegiate market.
Taylor Griffin—Director of Client Production and Entertainment
The creative mastermind behind producing GCU games and their infamous Midnight Madness events. Taylor went on to work for the Phoenix Suns before joining Biggest Fan Consulting to help transform games into events.
Alicia Talancon—Director of Client Success
A former student section President, Alicia saw the cultural transformation of leadership and systems. Now she serves our clients by ensuring they stay on track, implement our process and get results.