As “College GameDay” brought the frenzy a national TV show touts with it, people operated tirelessly to ensure a smooth week and final production last Saturday.
North Dakota State leaders from all corners of the university worked together to make last week memorable, from the opening announcement to after the game.
The experience further expands the Bison brand.
The saga started two weeks ago.
ESPN-authorized merchandise contractors contacted Carol Miller Schaefer, director of the NDSU bookstore, a week before the announcement.
Miller Schaefer uses “GameDay”-authorized cap company Top of the World as an example of the “GameDay” waiting process.
“Top of the World had been given a list of the five schools being considered,” Miller Schaefer said. The company, which then contacted the bookstore, was given the list to prepare themselves of a potential order.
“So we knew ahead of time that we were considered,” Miller Schaefer said. “We were all trying to keep it quiet and cross our fingers.”
After the initial week-long waiting game, NDSU found out show would come to Fargo on Sept. 6.
As for mottos this year, the bookstore wished to switch it up.
“Last year we did the ‘Get up, it’s GameDay,’ which was an option again this year, but it really felt like we needed a different shirt,” Miller Schaefer said. Her team, including opinions from her students, settled on “Live from North Dakota State.”
Since the home opener is a gold rush game, yellow was the primary color of the T-shirts.
The process is similar to other large-scale sporting events, like the FCS National Championship Game.
“Before we even went to Frisco last year, we had everything ordered, we had all of our artwork, we had everything ready to go,” Miller Schaefer said. “As soon as the game was won, we just flipped the switch.”
Had the Bison not made it to the championship or landed “GameDay,” merchandise would not be lost.
“(Manufacturers) don’t produce anything until the game is won,” Miller Schaefer said.
Once the game is won, however, supply must keep up with the demand. Miller Schaefer said it was helpful to have last year’s numbers to go by.
“We sold almost 3,800 T-shirts last year. That’s huge,” Miller Schaefer said.
“GameDay” sanctions the official graphic that companies must use.
“We can’t just create our own ‘GameDay’ shirt … they tell us what our choices are,” Miller Schaefer said.
While the hats were licensed out to Norman, Okla., company Top of the World, the official T-shirts were licensed to Detroit Lakes, Minn. company Lake Shirts, a change from last year’s supplier, Fargo-based CI Sports.
CI Sports’ proximity to campus eased any issues with reorder times last year.
“They were still warm from being printed,” Miller Schaefer said. If reprints are needed this year, the drive from Detroit Lakes to Fargo will assure cool shirts, but she has not run into any issues yet.
The bulk of the sales are rung up before the game, she said. Traffic is light at the merchandise booth in the Dome.
Viral traffic is strong, however.
Miller Schaefer said, “a couple hundred orders” were already in place before the initial shipment came to the bookstore.
“It’s an organized chaos,” Schaefer Miller said. “It probably looks more chaotic and ugly than it really is.”
“Anytime your sports team either does well or has exposure like that, the whole community reaps the benefits,” she said.
Justin Swanson, director of marketing and promotions at NDSU, has had his team hard at work, too. Swanson’s team heads marketing strategies and advertisements, entities that are paramount to “GameDay.”
“Preparing for ‘College GameDay’ and that size of production is a challenge,” Swanson said. “But it’s a fun challenge.”
“It’s a challenge in itself getting ready for a football game, especially your home opener,” Swanson said. “And now put ‘GameDay’ on top of it, it’s a double-whammy … It’s like we are hosting the Super Bowl and the World Series at the same time.”
Strong communication and teamwork alleviates the issues, however.
Swanson cites the collaboration between Fargo, NDSU and ESPN to help the process.
Having gone through the process last year helps, too.
“Repeating it the second time around — you dust off the old folders, you see what you can improve, but, for the most part, the nuts and bolts are there,” Swanson said. “You just put the plan in action.”
The plan, described by interim athletic director Prakash Mathew, was to make this year “bigger and better.”
Although Swanson could not get into specifics, he did allow that the fan base has been “incredible,” and he understands how much the fans appreciate his team’s work.
The Bison brand
Swanson believes the attention brought to NDSU by “GameDay” and the university’s recent successes have helped grow the Bison brand.
“Without question the Bison brand has gotten bigger,” Swanson said. “The Bison brand is one of, I’d say, the strongest in the nation right now”
“GameDay” last year brought the brand to a new level, Swanson continued. He cited social media numbers drastically increasing over the years to cement his claim.
Jobey Lichtblau, director of admissions at NDSU, noted while admission numbers are not official until the fourth week of classes, numbers in key demographics have been rising.
The office of admissions has “seen an increase in enrolled students from non-regional states,” Lichtblau writes in an email. States that are not North or South Dakota, Minnesota or Wisconsin are labeled non-regional.
“’GameDay’ may have created additional interest based on the nation exposure,” Lichtblau continues.
NDSU is fortunate to have this kind of exposure, Lichtblau writes. “I know that many of my colleagues at other colleges and universities would love to have this type of exposure. It most definitely helps recruiting when NDSU and Fargo are positively highlighted on a national stage.”