Sporticast: Smell of Success, Good Ice and Back-to-Back National Titles

On the latest Sporticast episode, hosts Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams speak with Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks about the business behind college football’s newest dynasty. The Bulldogs dismantled TCU 65-7 in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, the school’s second straight title.

Brooks talks about the program’s business approach, which includes aligned leadership, and the distribution of hundreds of championship rings. Last year, everyone who worked with Georgia football—from the Georgia athletic director to the stadium janitors—were given rings, an approach that will likely happen again following Monday’s win.

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Brooks also speaks in detail about the fan experience at Sanford Stadium, the school’s on-campus football venue. Georgia sells a number of basic concessions, such as hot dogs and water, at heavily discounted prices, an approach pioneered in the NFL by the nearby Atlanta Falcons. Concessions represent roughly 1% of the Georgia budget, Brooks says, but it’s way more important in the eyes of fans. As a result, the Bulldogs are happy to take a small revenue hit to make fans happier.

Sometimes, the approach generates added revenue. For a long time, Brooks says, Bulldogs fans complained that the ice served at the stadium was bad. When the school imported new ice for gamedays, the fans kept complaining. In 2021, Brooks and the school created a new ice sponsorship category and partnered with fast food company Zaxby’s, whose ice has a cult following among consumers. Now Sanford Stadium drinks come with official Zaxby’s ice.

Another example—the smell of the stadium. Brooks discusses the school’s trial-and-error process to figure out which smell (and how much of it) to pump into the stadium to keep fans happy. The school receives real-time feedback from fans via a partnership with HappyOrNot, which travelers may recognize for their feedback kiosks featuring happy- and sad-face buttons that are common in airports.

The trio also talks about how the so-called NIL Era has affected the Georgia athletic department. Brooks talks about his relationship with the main Bulldogs collective, which is separate from the university, and how he advises donors who are unsure about how to best use their money to help the program.

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