Secret Handshakes

Secret Handshakes are not limited to literal handshakes. We look at how these next level promotions can build a bond with fans and create a sense of exclusivity, camaraderie, and unity.

In this article we are looking at “secret handshake” promotions and how they can become signature events for your team that bond your fans, build camaraderie and create a more memorable experience.

A “secret handshake” refers to a special handshake or gesture shared between two or more individuals to symbolize their connection, affiliation, or shared understanding. It typically involves a specific sequence of movements, gestures, or hand placements that are known only to those who are part of the group or have been taught the handshake.

The importance of a secret handshake in building a between people lies in its ability to create a sense of exclusivity, camaraderie, and unity.  There are a few ways they can be important, including:

  1. Identity and belonging: By sharing a secret handshake, individuals can identify themselves as part of a particular group or community. It serves as a symbol of belonging, providing a sense of identity and unity among its members. It can be especially meaningful in organizations, clubs, teams, or secret societies.
  2. Trust and camaraderie: The act of learning and performing a secret handshake requires trust and mutual understanding between the participants. It can create a sense of camaraderie, fostering stronger bonds and friendships. The shared experience of mastering and using the secret handshake can enhance trust and loyalty among individuals.
  3. Exclusivity and initiation: Secret handshakes are often used as a form of initiation or entry into a group. It can serve as a way to differentiate insiders from outsiders, establishing a sense of exclusivity. By having a secret handshake, individuals feel special and connected to the group, strengthening their commitment and dedication.
  4. Fun and shared experience: Secret handshakes can be enjoyable and entertaining. They add an element of playfulness and excitement to interactions, creating a unique and memorable experience. The shared knowledge of the secret handshake becomes a shared secret, fostering a sense of shared experience and mutual enjoyment.

Secret handshakes are not limited to literal handshakes and involve other gestures or signals, such as secret signs, coded phrases, or even complex rituals. The key aspect is the shared knowledge and understanding of the gesture, which helps build a bond between the participants.

“Wham with the right hand”

Let’s start with a sports example of this shared identity.

Team broadcasters often find  a connection with fans through unique calls and slogans.  Mike Breen’s “BANG!” and Mark Jackson’s “Mama, there goes that man” are two examples from their national broadcasts that connects their personalities to fans.

Creating signature calls is valuable for broadcasters for several reasons:

  1. Branding and Identity: A signature call helps broadcasters establish a unique brand and identity. It becomes synonymous with their coverage and sets them apart from competitors. When viewers hear the call, they instantly associate it with a particular broadcaster, creating a strong brand recognition and loyalty.
  2. Memorability: Signature calls have the power to become iconic and memorable catchphrases. When broadcasters consistently use these calls during broadcasts, they stick in the minds of viewers. This can lead to increased engagement, word-of-mouth promotion, and a lasting impression, helping the broadcaster stay top of mind.
  3. Audience Connection: A signature call creates a sense of familiarity and connection with the audience. It becomes a shared experience among fans and serves as a rallying cry during important moments in sports or other events. The call can evoke emotions, energize viewers, and enhance their overall enjoyment of the broadcast.
  4. Differentiation: In a competitive broadcasting landscape, a signature call can be a differentiating factor. It sets a broadcaster apart from others who may use more generic or ordinary commentary. This differentiation can attract viewership, especially among fans who appreciate the unique style and excitement associated with the signature call.
  5. Longevity and Legacy: Signature calls can stand the test of time, transcending generations of viewers. They become part of the broadcaster’s legacy and contribute to their overall reputation and recognition within the industry. Legendary broadcasters are often remembered for their iconic calls.

Creating a signature call is valuable for broadcasters as it enhances their brand, engages the audience, sets them apart from competitors, and offers potential revenue and legacy-building opportunities.

Joe Tait

Long-time radio broadcaster Joe Tait from the Cleveland Cavaliers had an iconic call.  For impactful slam dunks, Joe would exclaim “Wham with the right hand!”  His voice and cadence was completely identifiable to any Cavs fan.

When the Cavaliers were creating a custom social network site for fans one of the name pitched (but not used) for the URL was

This is a fun (non-promotional night) sports example of a secret handshake.  Every Cavs fan would get it (and enjoy it) and outsiders just wouldn’t.

Secret Handshake Promotions

It connects, differentiates and is memorable.  Just a like a great promotion.

Of course for a promotion the “handshake” is a metaphor that means something special between “members” of a community.


In Game Operations and Sports Marketing this is a promotion that only makes sense when you are a fan.  In this article we look at promotions that speak to and perhaps only to your fans.

Knowing and understanding it makes you an insider.  You are part of the community.  You are in the club.

Creating a sense of belonging is the process of converting your customer for a sports event into a passionate fan. The process can be passed down generations, earned over time or bonded in an instant.  The value of a customer can be calculated, but the value of FAN in immeasurable.

If you have ever worn your team’s hat, jacket or jersey you know the instant bond you have with anyone you meet who is also wearing the colors.  You immediately share a common thread.  That’s one step of the process, but to build trust and exclusivity you have to bond through a more shared experience.

Star War Night and bobblehead giveaway promotions speak a universal (re: non-exclusive) language.  There is value offered, but to a broad audience. While the can connect your fans, it’s not exclusive. These can (and are) shared by countless teams across sports.  Not to say they aren’t amazing and necessary, but they are not unique to you and your fanbase.

These Secret Handshakes are the next level.

Three Illuminating Examples

Here are three examples of a promotion with an added level of the Secret Handshake.

In 2017 the Saint Paul Saints changed their name to the Duck Duck Gray Ducks for a night, and continue to noodle at this local flavor. (from Duck Duck Gray Duck)

While other teams around the country were rebranding themselves, the Saints took it a step further (in true Saints fashion). On April 1, the team announced they would play 50 home games under 50 different monikers, and they invited fans to vote on their favorites. The over-the-top names included the St. Paul Duck, Duck Gray Ducks, St. Paul Holy Buckets, Minnesota Nice, St. Paul Gutteral Uff Da’s and Minnesota Cabin Goers. 

This all was no joke for Saints fans, who actually loved the names and insisted the team use at least one of the monikers during a game in 2017. (Strib)

The team also hosted the largest game of Duck Duck Gray Duck post-game before a concert.

Whether you call it duck, duck goose, Daisy in the Dell, Drip, Drip, Drop, Vrot Eir or Rumall Chor, this traditional children’s game is familiar to all. Of course, in Minnesota it’s known only by one name: Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.  Forget all the other records, the only one that matters are the 108 attendees at Canterbury Park in 2019.  We aim to beat that. Following the game, everyone is invited down onto the field to break the World Record for largest game of Duck, Duck Gray Duck presented by Gray Duck Vodka.

I am someone who loves a promotion with local flavor that makes the fans unite as a community. One that has a bit of wink and secret handshake flavor to it.  A promotion that can’t just be passed around the country, because it is YOURS.  It only makes sense to you and your fans.  A promotion, exactly like Duck Duck Gray Duck in Saint Paul.

The Saint Paul Saints are revered as one of the smartest, most fun and playful teams in minor league baseball history. Led by the brilliance of Mike Veeck and part-owner Bill Murray, the focus is on fun and laughs.  But its not just a “Best of” rehash of baseball’s best practices. They find their own fun, they write for their own fans. And in doing so, they create promotions that are exclusive to the Saints. Thus creating a space that people don’t just buy a ticket to watch, they buy a ticket to belong.

The test is “can another team just cut and paste this promotion into their promo calendar?”

Mike Veeck from the Saints learned from the Master, his father Bill Veeck.  Our second example is a Bill Veeck Original from the Cleveland Indians.

Joe Earley Night in Cleveland

One of my favorite stories in the book Bill Veeck Baseball’s Greatest Maverick is about a promotion Veeck created in Cleveland.  After the Indians held a tribute for one of its players an area security guard named Joe Earley wrote a facetious letter to the Cleveland Press suggesting too many players were being honored.

1951 Bill Veeck Hands Out Drinks Photograph

Earley said it was time for an average guy like Joe Earley be honored. In classic Veeck form he did just that.  Veeck created “Joe Earley Night”. Life Magazine called it “a night to end all nights” and the wacky promotion drew a capacity crowd, helped take the pressure off the team during the pennant chase and showcased Veeck’s wicked eye for playful fun.

It was fun and playful, completely one-of-kind and a promotion that make no sense anywhere else.  You not only had to understand the Indians promotions, but you would have to understand Veeck’s genius to comprehend what he was doing.

Lowrider Night in Albuquerque

Another example is from the Albuquerque Isotopes.  In Albuquerque the lowrider car holds significant cultural importance. It is more than just a style of car; it represents a rich and vibrant subculture that has deep roots in the city’s history. The lowrider scene in Albuquerque is a testament to the creativity, craftsmanship, and community spirit of its participants.

Lowrider night The Isotopes recognized this connection with their city and fans and created a night to pay tribute to that identity, this strengthening their bond with the local community.  Of course this incredible promotion makes little sense in Minneapolis or Hartford, but affirms what that the Albuquerque Isotopes understand Albuquerque.

What promotion does your team build that connects with your fans identity and creates an aura of exclusivity?  A promotion that can’t be cut-and-pasted by a rival team. A promotion that speaks the unique dialect of your fans.

If you don’t have one, is it time to find one?

Jon Cudo and Rob Wicall talk more about these promotions on the September 2023 edition of the Party in the Back Podcast.  Lots of extras, example of in-game moments and even mascot variations of these Secret Handshakes.

September 2023 Party in the Back Podcast

Here are more teams creating Secret Handshake Promotions for their fans:

 More examples from

Deer Widows Night

Universal Fan Cams

Lowriding in ABQ

Haudenosaunee Night

Do You Speak Michigander?

Handshake Deal icons created by Freepik – Flaticon

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