There are over 1,300 college campuses throughout the country. While not everyone uses athletics as the proverbial “front porch” of the institution, a great number do. For those that sponsor the sport of football, each Saturday in the fall provides an opportunity for the caretakers of the college to bring people to campus and provide a respite from the routine of the day-to-day.

In our experience of assessing game day environments through “Secret Shopping,” we step into the shoes of the customer. Each time 2D sets foot on campus, we set out on the fan’s journey. In our travels, there are things we know to be true.

Empathy matters. Consumers, more than ever, want to feel they are buying from someone who understands both their points of pleasure and points of pain. When a fan pulls money from the wallet to buy tickets, committing to what will be a full day’s proposition, they immediately start forming expectations. Fans explore their own tactile senses ahead of game day, thinking about what they hope to be the feel of the weather, the taste of the tailgate, the aromas that waft about, the sight of team colors, and the sounds that are uniquely collegiate in America. While fans may not think of it in these exact terms, they want the administration to satisfy the emotions they’ve attached to their Saturday. Fans have parted with their hard-earned money. An emotional return on the investment is what they desire.

Writing the Run of Show on Monday sometimes misses the mark come Saturday. While every weekend is filled with a heavy load of fall sports, Mondays create a natural trap for administrators who oversee programming. While there is great value maintaining the structure developed for the entire day’s Run of Show, especially as the season continues to unfold, managers of marketing, facilities, development, food services, and security sit in their offices fashioning scripts, timelines, and policies without consideration about the movements or reactions they want to elicit from those that consume game day on Saturdays. In the environment of the office, it is a challenge for those in charge to transport themselves to the front seat of a car, to the line of the concession stand, to a backless bench seat in the bowl.

Weekend face-to-face engagements differ greatly from weekday on-line interactions. A game day experience for fans is something that is on the opposite side of the spectrum from the lives they normally lead. Saturdays are atypical by comparison to the five straight days of countless video meetings, supervising employees, and calendar management. On workdays, most people sit at a desk that is of great distance, both physically and mentally, from where they will stand on your campus, using their best outdoor voices. Game day is human. A parking attendant who looks every driver in the eye, a gate keeper who smiles while tickets are scanned, an usher – not a bot – helping to answer questions. In the shadows of your stadium, fans break from the routine of everyday life.

Energy words are critical, and often overlooked. It’s what we don’t hear and read that makes a big impact on 2D as we develop our Secret Shopping reports. A staff member that doesn’t say “welcome” when greeting fans, a public address script that excludes “up,” or a videoboard graphic that doesn’t use “pride” are missed opportunities when reinforcing the connection between the venue and the fans. Positively associated words, ones that drive spirit, bounce, and that enhance the feelings of fans (either consciously or unconsciously) should be crafted with great strategy and care. The culture of the athletic department is showcased through the voices and the displays on game day. The effect words have on the fans will be measured, in the long run, by their return to campus and the volume of their outdoor voices.

Call Trip Durham at 336-264-7550 to explore how a “Secret Shopping” collaboration with 2D could lead to a better understanding of your game day assets, liabilities, and opportunities. In the meantime, visit .