Elk Grove Village to be title sponsor of college bowl game - in the Bahamas

Not to be confused with the iconic "Elk Grove Bowl" bowling alley, Elk Grove Village is getting its own nationally televised college football bowl game this December - on a tropical island 1,320 miles away.

The village and ESPN announced Tuesday that Elk Grove will be the title sponsor of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, to be played Dec. 21 in Nassau, Bahamas, using the village's business marketing tag line. The village is spending $300,000 to sponsor the game, which will air on ESPN. The game had previously been sponsored by Popeyes.

It marks the first time a non-tourist municipality has sponsored a bowl game, the village and ESPN say.

"This is a unique, different marketing strategy, and they loved it," Mayor Craig Johnson said of ESPN Events, the division of the sports network that owns and operates the Bahamas Bowl and 13 other postseason bowl games.

"Elk Grove is home to companies from around the world," Johnson said. "This is a way to get our message out all over the world."

Johnson wanted a way to expand the reach of the village's "Makers Wanted" campaign, which launched in 2015 to promote the village industrial park - at 6 square miles, the largest contiguous one in the country. The campaign has included a website, billboards, TV and radio commercials, and print ads.

Watching college bowl games last winter, the mayor came up with the idea of having the village sponsor a game.

After eight months of internal discussions and planning, Johnson announced the deal was done, ahead of a formal 6-0 vote by village trustees during a special meeting late Tuesday afternoon.

By Tuesday night, Johnson's boosterism for the bowl game was on full display at the village-sponsored Bret Michaels summer concert next to village hall. The mayor threw T-shirts to the crowd featuring the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl logo. Earlier, he announced news of the sponsorship at a meeting of local business leaders.

In exchange for the sponsorship, Elk Grove is getting its slogan front and center in the bowl game logo, nestled in between two palm trees. Another "Makers Wanted Elk Grove Village" logo - recently trademarked - will be placed on the 25-yard lines of the field.

And every time an announcer on ESPN mentions the bowl game by name, "Makers Wanted" has to be said as well, per terms of the contract.

Elk Grove has the option to extend its sponsorship of the game another year for the same price.

The agreement was brokered for the village by Banner Collective and 4FRONT, and for ESPN by Impression Sports & Entertainment. It will be the fifth year for the Bahamas Bowl, to be held at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and featuring teams from the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA. Northern Illinois University is in the MAC.

The fee to sponsor the bowl game is part of a $400,000 increase the board approved in its contract with Lombard-based Red Caffeine, the marketing company that developed the Makers Wanted campaign. The other funds will pay for new Elk Grove TV commercials set to air regionally on cable news channels this fall.

While public funds are being used to fund the bowl game sponsorship, Johnson vowed that any elected officials or village staff members who attend would be paying their own way for airfare, lodging and meals.

"I know what people are going to say - 'It's a junket,'" Johnson said. "We want to be above reproach."

Elk Grove officials plan to host a watch party the day of the game for local businesses.

  Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson announces to those gathered for a summer concert Tuesday night that the village will be sponsoring the Bahamas Bowl game Dec. 21. He later threw T-shirts with the bowl game logo to the crowd, ahead of a performance by Bret Michaels. Patrick Kunzer/
The new Bahamas Bowl logo features Elk Grove Village's "Makers Wanted" tagline.
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