SoFlo Rodeo’s consulting company plans to cultivate ‘untapped potential’
“Untapped potential” was the phrase CEO and Founder of Biggest Fan Consulting Brandon Kaiser used to describe the South Florida basketball’s student section.
The SoFlo Rodeo student section has been growing since its introduction in November. The backbone behind it has been Kaiser’s company that USF Athletics hired to instill the beginning of what could be the student experience Bulls fans have been yearning for.
Way to show out Student section. @USFMBB @USFAthletics pic.twitter.com/1fwjS6wIto
— Nick Carroll "Bulls on Parade" (@BullsOnParadeTG) January 21, 2023
Kaiser was approached in May by USF senior writer/football and basketball radio talent Joey Johnston about the possibility of bringing his services to the Bulls. Johnston saw a video on Youtube of Grand Canyon University’s student section during its basketball game while he was looking for ways to improve South Florida basketball.
TONIGHT. WAS. WILD. RECORDS. WERE. BROKEN. THE. HAVOCS. SHOWED. UP. pic.twitter.com/MKnmgHCtL1
— GCU Havocs (@GCUHavocs) September 4, 2021
Johnston was so impressed with the passion transpiring through the bleachers of the Antelopes’ home court. The packed arena was decorated with a synchronized light show and featured spirit squads leading a crowd of students dressed in purple while jumping to EDM music.
Knowing that GCU’s video could be a reality for USF, Johnston brought it up to men’s coach Brian Gregory.
“I happened to be in [Gregory’s] office that same day and I said, ‘Have you ever heard of Grand Canyon University and their student section?’
“And [Gregory] said, ‘Yeah, I actually got an email from that guy and I have his name and number…apparently, he helped start it.’ And he had [Kaiser’s] number and I asked ‘Can I get it?’ I literally took it,” Johnston said.
“I went to somebody’s desk and called right then. We talked for two hours.”
USF has no other basketball audiences to compete with in Tampa, which is what surprised Kaiser when he saw zero students standing up at his first South Florida basketball game.
A lackluster amount of green and gold in the crowd was Kaiser’s sign that he had a lot of work to do.
“It is interesting that there is no high level basketball show in town. There’s no NBA or top division-one team in Tampa,” Kaiser said. “So, for a big sports city, we knew that there’s a lot not only for the student population, but also the community in the city. Over the next few years, I fully anticipate Tampa rallying around USF basketball.”
GCU was Kaiser’s alma mater, and after working to build its student section, he created Biggest Fan in 2018. He has now worked with multiple schools to create many unforgettable student section experiences, some of which include USC, UC Santa Barbara, Lindenwood and North Carolina A&T.
UNC Charlotte and North Texas are also on that list, teams USF will see next season as the two schools will move into the AAC.
Taking a student section with no one in the stands to jam-packed is not possible without student leaders. Kaiser described his USF team as his “secret sauce.” He found freshmen Luke Zimmer, Eli Hermann and Jazmyn Myers when he came to campus. After they showed interest, he knew they would be the dynamic student leaders he needed.
Aspects of the brand like the name and the bright green t-shirts were ideas brought by the student leaders working with USF Athletics.
Hermann compared Biggest Fan as the train and the trio as the tracks. The freshmen meet with Biggest Fan twice a week in meetings to expand ideas and seek advice.
“We will give them ideas and just bounce things off their head. Like they know what’s worked in the past,” Hermann said. “They’ve worked with a bunch of other schools so they’ve seen stuff work and they’ve seen stuff fail. They’re a good resource.”
As Biggest Fan, the student leaders and USF Athletics work together, Kaiser mentioned the end goal would be a championship-type atmosphere where there would be high demand for tickets and students would be lining up two hours before the game to get a front row seat.
Kaiser said the section being a force to be reckoned with is the vision.
“People are going to want to come and not just watch the game but watch the student section,” Kaiser said. “USF’s home atmosphere to be recognized locally and nationally as one of the rowdiest and toughest environments to play.”
There hasn’t been any confirmation about the length of the partnership between Biggest Fan and USF Athletics. However, Myers said while the focus currently is basketball, the goal is to continue branding to other sports like football.
Senior Associate Athletics Director Lee Butler declined to comment on USF Athletics’ specific relationship with Biggest Fan as well as how much they are spending on the SoFlo Rodeo.
Kaiser said the SoFlo Rodeo not only needs students to show up, but they need them to start believing that the current culture can change.
While change can be uncomfortable, Kaiser said the students are the bridge to the student-fan experience USF desperately wants.
“The nice thing about a student section is you’re only competing against yourself and your own campus culture. The more arenas that have packed and rowdy student sections, the better the conference, the better for the school and the more fun the games are,” Kaiser said.
“Every student has the desire to be hype.”