CRAIN’S – Elk Grove Village Naming College Football Bowl Game

Elk Grove Village is betting it can bring new business to town by marrying two wildly popular things: industrial real estate and college football.
As the suburb on the western edge of O’Hare Airport rides a winning streak from companies clamoring to fill warehouse and data center space on which it has built its name, the village has struck a deal to be the title sponsor of the 2018 Bahamas Bowl, Elk Grove officials announced today.
Under the agreement, the Dec. 21 game on ESPN will be dubbed the “Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl,” putting on display the marketing tagline Elk Grove Village has pushed since 2015 to draw companies to the roughly 62 million square feet of industrial real estate on its six square miles of business parks.
The goal of the $400,000 naming rights deal—Elk Grove’s largest single marketing expense to date—is to reach a national audience as demand for industrial space surges, said Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson. Industrial vacancy in the northwest suburb is below 3 percent—an all-time low—and another 4 million square feet is planned or under construction there, according to Johnson, making now the perfect time to try to put it on the radar of as many companies as possible.
“We’re hoping we reach some business owner that is shopping around the Midwest to locate,” Johnson said. “We are a true economic engine… and we want to make sure that engine keeps going.”
The industrial sector has been on fire with the rise of e-commerce and companies needing places to store products before shipping them to consumers. With Chicago-area industrial vacancy at a 16-year low 6.6 percent, industrial developers built more new space in the area in 2017 than they ever had in one year.
Elk Grove Village has been a major beneficiary of the trend, with new construction there roughly doubling in 2017 to $292 million, according to the village. And more is on the way, highlighted by an 85-acre, 1.2 million-square-foot industrial business park that Rosemont-based Brennan Investment Group broke ground on last week.
Johnson decided to double down on sports to raise Elk Grove Village’s profile after seeing a huge uptick in web traffic and inquiries from air time it bought on Comcast SportsNet Chicago during Cubs games over the past three seasons.
Working with Chicago-based sports marketing firm 4FRONT and video production company Banner Collective, Elk Grove Village landed on a bowl sponsorship as the most effective platform to relay its message to a national audience.
Mid-December bowl games are typically not well-attended (the Bahamas Bowl has drawn less than 14,000 people each of the past four years), but many are used effectively as commercials for brands trying to fuel viewers’ curiosity about a company they may not know.
“And any time you do something that’s first of its kind, you get that innovative (benefit) of being unique,” said 4FRONT co-founder Dan Migala, whose firm also negotiates sponsorship deal on behalf of the village of Rosemont. The Bahamas Bowl will mark the first time that a non-tourist municipality has ever sponsored a bowl game, according to a statement from ESPN and the village.
The game is also relatively affordable for a suburban village whose total marketing budget for the year is about $750,000 and whose standard promotional playbook consists of media buys in trade magazines, Johnson said. It also should especially draw the attention of Midwest companies as the Bahamas Bowl hosts schools from the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA. “Northern Illinois (making the game) would be icing on the cake,” Johnson said.

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