Back to the Bahamas: Elk Grove ready for second bowl game sponsorship
Elk Grove Village officials are back in the Bahamas this week -- not as a junket, they say, but to market the village's massive business park in what is the second year of the municipality's unconventional college football bowl game sponsorship.
So for $300,000, what does Elk Grove's sponsorship fee buy?
For one, the Northwest suburb gets its business marketing tagline, "Makers Wanted," affixed to the title of the Bahamas Bowl, which is set to kick off at 1 p.m. Friday from Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau.
Like last year, the bowl game logo will again be front and center on TV screens during ESPN's national broadcast, around the stadium on signs and banners, and on the 50-yard line of the field, along with "Makers Wanted Elk Grove Village Illinois" logos that will be placed on the 25-yard lines.
For $125,000 more, the village paid a video production firm to make commercials that will be featured during the broadcast, as well as other target marketing.
Of the six commercials to air, one aims to show how Elk Grove is "thinking outside the box," Mayor Craig Johnson said, and will describe how the first bowl game sponsorship in 2018 led to the village's attracting a brick-and-mortar business, Love's gas station, to the business park.
Another TV spot will highlight the new $1 billion Elk Grove Technology Park being developed on the old Busse family farm. Developers of the 85-acre site, Brennan Investment Group, are among the local contingent of some 20 business leaders, village officials, videographers and a photographer headed to the Bahamas this week.
Johnson -- whose brainchild it was to sponsor the game -- is making the trip with his wife, as well as Village Attorney George Knickerbocker and Finance Director Christine Tromp. Like last year, the mayor says no village funds will be used to pay trip expenses for village brass.
While Johnson's wife, Knickerbocker and Tromp will be responsible for their own airfare, lodging, meals and other expenses, the mayor is using campaign funds to pay some costs.
In 2018, he used $750 in campaign money for his plane ticket, $506 for a hotel room, $621 for a staff dinner, and $1,444 for a business reception he hosted, according to disclosure records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
A June 2018 letter from state election board General Counsel Ken Menzel to Knickerbocker said political committee funds could be used to defray travel costs related to the performance of a public official's governmental and public service functions. As such, travel expenses associated with the village marketing campaign would appear to be permitted by state election code, Menzel wrote.
Johnson said he tells his contributors that he uses campaign funds for a number of causes related to the village, such as Elk Grove High School homecoming fireworks and Relay For Life.
Members of the Elk Grove delegation will be at a kickoff event tonight at Atlantis Paradise Island, the official host hotel of the bowl game, where Elk Grove-based Stern Pinball will host a pinball tournament. Players from the two football teams, the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference and the Charlotte 49ers from Conference USA, will play each other in pinball. The winning school gets to take a pinball machine of its choice back to campus.
Brennan Investment, which is bringing 11 members of its sales staff on the trip, will host a business reception instead of Johnson this year.
On Wednesday, the mayor will join the football teams in a visit to Ranfurly Homes for Children, which provides shelter for youths who have been orphaned, abused, neglected or abandoned. Already, village officials sent the youth home $50,000 in building supplies -- such as tile, doors, locks, cabinets and appliances -- that were donated by eight Elk Grove companies.
While Hurricane Dorian struck the islands in August and September, it left Nassau unscathed. But Bahamian officials doubled down on their commitment to the bowl game because of the tourism and economic benefit it provides the entire island nation, Johnson said.
"They need the money and revenue still coming in. That's what's building the country back up," Johnson said. "More so than ever before, they need this game. That is going to help immensely."