Bowl Game Blog: First-Of-Its-Kind Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl

This is the first of four College Football Bowl Game Blogs we will be posting over the next four weeks! Stay tuned every Friday through Bowl Season to see who will be competing for the win.

The Traditional Sponsor vs. Non-Traditional Sponsor

By: Doron Tamari & Matt Puttin

Over the next few weeks, there will be 80 college football teams competing in 40 bowl games, in different stadiums and locales around the country. However, only 2 teams will have the honor of participating in the first bowl of the season, which also happens to be the only one played outside of the United States and the only one in bowl history sponsored by a non-tourist municipality. That’s a lot of “only” for a bowl game, and it makes you wonder how exactly this unique partnership, between a sports network, a tropical island, and a Chicago-area village came to be.

Born and raised in Elk Grove Village, Mayor Craig Johnson was passionate about putting his hometown on the map. After advertising with the Cubs for several years and seeing good results, Mayor Johnson was inspired to create a breakthrough moment that would put Elk Grove Village in the national and international spotlight in a way that had never been done before. After watching bowl games at home and having visions of the village’s logo on a field of his own, Johnson and the Elk Grove Village board moved ahead with securing the sponsorship for the Bahamas Bowl as a partnership with ESPN.

Johnson then tapped 4FRONT to come up with ways to help drive awareness and to attract new businesses to EGV’s thriving community and industrial park, which is the largest in the United States. The goal was to highlight the village’s business slogan, “Makers Wanted,” which is a call-to-action for its “Beyond Business Friendly” environment. Traditional approaches weren’t Mayor Johnson’s cup of tea; he wanted something big, bold, and revolutionary, and he got it.

Most bowl games are sponsored by brands looking to increase sales of their products, such as Chick-fil-a, PlayStation, and Cheez-Its, or to generate awareness of their brand for future consumer purchasing decisions, like Northwestern Mutual, Allstate, and VRBO. The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl had the challenge of trying to promote an opportunity specific to businesses around the country and world looking for a place to set up shop, something that had truly never been done before utilizing this medium.

The plan was to coordinate an earned media campaign around the uniqueness of the partnership and augment it with a paid campaign that educated potential customers about the opportunities available within Elk Grove Village.

Significant earned media was immediately realized during the initial sponsorship announcement four months before the bowl game, through national press, TV news coverage and prominent social media industry influencers, including Forbes and USA Today. Based on the initial investment of $300,000 by Elk Grove Village for the title sponsorship, it was reported that the sponsorship generated an astounding 40:1 return in total media coverage.

Weeks leading up to the game on December 21, 2018, Elk Grove Village utilized its marketing rights and 4FRONT’s digital advertising capabilities to promote the sponsorship and “Makers Wanted” tagline to a targeted national online audience of business decision-makers, which generated over two million impressions. In the Bahamas, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson engaged in a series of activities at the Atlantis Resort, in the community with ESPN, Bahamas Bowl staff, coaches and players and families of the two competing teams.

For gameday, Elk Grove Village had prominent, TV-visible on-field branding and signage throughout the stadium. During the broadcast, a half-dozen commercials produced by Banner Collective touted Elk Grove Village as a good place to do business and reasons why. Lastly, an Elk Grove Village bar hosted a watch party to celebrate the sponsorship.

Overall, the sponsorship has been a resounding success as Elk Grove Village extended the bowl sponsorship for 2019. Mayor Johnson has said that many people thought his idea for his community to sponsor a bowl game was unbelievable and crazy, but it has proven to pay off and gain support for its success and innovative thinking. Heading into year two of bowl sponsorship, Elk Grove Village is seeing a high return on investment as a Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores is placing their latest Chicago-area store in Elk Grove.

The genesis of the location came from the company’s real estate manager who was watching the bowl game and learned about Elk Grove Village and Makers Wanted. The fueling station is expected to produce millions in sales tax revenues. Elk Grove Village has also seen a significant spike in traffic on the website before, during and after the bowl game.

As the first non-tourist municipality to sponsor a college football bowl game, it truly reflects how much the community has embraced this unique opportunity. Elk Grove Village integrated the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl into their annual Manufacturing & Technology Expo which featured ESPN’s Adam Amin as a keynote speaker. Attendees were able to take pictures with the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl trophy and learn about the bowl sponsorship.

In partnership with ESPN Radio Chicago, an Elk Grove Village bar hosted a live radio broadcast in November 2019 to spark excitement for the game and even gave away a trip to the bowl game. Seven EGV businesses donated tile, doors, locks, yard tools and a commercial toaster oven to Ranfurly Homes for Children, a safe haven for children in need; these donations were incredibly appreciated after the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas.

Elk Grove Village is committed to leaving a lasting legacy thanks to this very special non-traditional bowl sponsorship. While it’s not the only bowl game out there, the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl holds a special place in bowl history that we here at #Team4FRONT are very proud to play a small part in!

To learn more about the success story of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl and more from our Innovation team, click here!

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