After foray into college football, Elk Grove Village sets sights on Olympics

On the heels of its unconventional sponsorship of a college football bowl game, Elk Grove Village is taking its next step in using sports to market the community: sponsoring a U.S. Olympic team.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said it's believed his town would be the first municipality to financially back an Olympic team that operates under a national governing body. The sponsorship would be for a squad participating in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which have been postponed to 2021.

At a special meeting Monday, the village board agreed to dangle a $100,000 sponsorship before governing bodies of nearly 20 summer U.S. Olympic teams, including high-profile men's and women's basketball and soccer, and pick a recipient next month.

Chicago-based 4FRONT, a sports marketing agency, soon will send requests for proposals to teams interested in the $100,000 offer and collect video presentations from each about why they should get Elk Grove's money. Those presentations would be viewed by the village board at a July 16 meeting, with a decision expected a week later.

The sponsorship would help promote Elk Grove's massive village business park and "Makers Wanted" tagline. Johnson said the Olympic squads have taken a financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic like other businesses and could use assistance.

"The sponsorship dollars were all set to run out this year when the Olympics were supposed to take place in 2020," Johnson said. "They have another year now that they have to train, compete and prepare for the Olympics in 2021. They need help. They need sponsors.

"These are American-made athletes competing on American-made teams. What a better partner than the home of American-made products, Elk Grove Village?"

Elk Grove hired 4FRONT to broker the village's sponsorship of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl in 2018 and 2019. Village officials decided not to renew the $300,000 sponsorship earlier this year.

Johnson said the $100,000 for the Summer Olympics would come from a tax increment financing fund for the business park area around Busse and Elmhurst roads, where property tax money is funneled into development. That money can be used for marketing or infrastructure public improvements.

Village officials expect they will consider serving as one of several backers of a prominent Olympic team or a major sponsor of a lower-profile sport, such as fencing.

"When they make the presentation, they may say that, 'Do you want to be the big fish in the little pond or do you want to be the little fish in the big pond?'" Johnson said. "And that's all stuff we'll have to look at."

While trustees did not debate the merits of the plan Monday, Trustee Jeffery Franke stressed that the idea did not just arise. The village board voted 6-0 in favor of pursuing the sponsorship.

"This is something we've discussed for weeks and I think we're all on board," Franke said.

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  At a special meeting Monday, Elk Grove Village leaders agreed to dangle a $100,000 sponsorship before governing bodies of about 20 U.S. Olympic teams, including high-profile men's and women's basketball and soccer, and pick a recipient next month. Bob Susnjara/
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