Georgia hockey has become a perennial contender in the College Hockey South, winning four conference titles since 2016, two more than any other team during that span.
John Camp, the acting general manager and head coach of the team, views the team’s success as something to be proud of, a representation of their hard work on and off the ice.
“We’ve become the model, literally, of hockey in the south,” Camp said.
The process of maintaining such consistent performance is no small feat. As a club sport, budgeting, promotion and sponsorships are vital for the success of the team.
For example, Camp notes that the team typically attempts to reuse equipment for multiple seasons, though in a sport as physically taxing as hockey, that’s not always possible.
The team also rents coach buses for travel purposes, viewing them as a more reliable form of transportation.
Renting out an ice rink in Georgia can cost up to $400 for a single hour — which has become the team’s greatest financial drain. When ice isnt available in Athens, the team travels to Duluth, or another nearby location. Their practices last around two hours, meaning that just a single night of training can run up a high fee.
According to the club president Cameron Campbell, the team affords all of these expenses through teamwork.
The team will draw up a budget at the start of each season, planning out the financial course of a given year. On March 17, the hockey team left for the CHF tournament in Pennsylvania. This tournament was drawn into the budget months before.
Campbell emphasized the importance of sticking to their schedule with a high degree of discipline, but also leaving room for a “rainy day,” if necessary.
Each player on the team pays dues, as with other clubs at UGA, and that accounts for one portion of the budget. Camp expressed that another major factor in the club’s financial stability are the students on the team who don’t pay dues.
The UGA hockey team collaborates with the university’s experiential learning programs, and many of the team’s interns are earning experience in marketing or media as part of the academic system, according to the staff.
Merchandising is another branch that students can gain valuable experience in. Campbell expressed the many things that go into creating merchandise and working with the interns. The interns present him with a new design, which he will then send to the UGA Trademarks and Licensing Office. To ensure that the design is approved, Campbell is careful to stay within certain guidelines with all of his proposals to the office.
The team’s interns are also responsible for another aspect of the program’s sustainability: social media. The team has over 9,500 followers on Instagram and Twitter, and Camp made sure to state that the team’s work in that field has been crucial to enhancing the team’s brand, which in turn results in more national attention and more sponsorships.
According to Camp, half of the team’s sponsors come from the Athens-Clarke County area, one quarter comes from the southeast region and the final quarter from the nation as a whole. The team’s prominent social media presence allows the team to approach potential sponsors with the concept of a mutually beneficial relationship, allowing them to see what UGA hockey has to offer.
Rachel Allen is the co-owner and marketing director of Nabo Realty, one of the team’s local sponsors. Nabo Realty has partnered with UGA hockey for two years now, and Allen recalls that it was not a difficult decision to align with the program after their initial pitch.
“I think the proof was in their media packet,” she said, “That the games are well-attended, and that people seem pretty engaged with the team.”
The team is in agreement that the fans’ engagement is vital to the continued success of the club, in more ways than one. Camp cited community as one of his primary pitches on recruiting visits, going on to mention that such an interactive fanbase around the team also helps with potential sponsors.
Campbell emphasized that the fanbase, and all of the support it provides, is one reason that Georgia hockey thrives.
“There’s a lot that we do to be successful, but a big part of that is the support from the community, the support from our sponsors,” Campbell said. “If it wasn’t for them, you know, it would really be tough on us to do what we do.”