The Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas has a new title sponsor that’s making history. Elk Grove Village, home to the largest contiguous industrial park in the United States, is using its business slogan, “Makers Wanted,” to become the first non-tourist municipality to sponsor a bowl game.
Elk Grove Village is a community located adjacent to O’Hare International Airport and the City of Chicago. Served by all major Illinois interstates and freight rail, it is home to over 5,614 businesses, including 300 manufacturers that specialize in plastic, rubber and food manufacturing and two million square feet of data centers. “Makers Wanted” is its call-to-action for its thriving community of businesses.
So, how would a place like that come to be the title sponsor of a bowl in the Bahamas?
Mayor Craig Johnson, who was born and raised in Elk Grove Village and whose family owns the oldest business in town, chalks it up to being a college football fan who’s always thinking outside the box.
“Last season, I was watching all these bowl games for four straight days,” explained Johnson. “And as I was watching one of the smaller bowl games, I could just see our slogan painted on the field.”
Johnson told his wife first, who told him in no uncertain terms that he was crazy. Then he approached his staff, who had the same reaction. It wasn’t until he approached Dave Knickerbocker at Banner Collective, who’d worked with the village on previous advertising campaigns, that the idea began to take shape. Johnson met with his board thereafter and was able to convince them to give it a try based on some past results in sports.
Elk Grove Village began its first real marketing push just three years ago. One of the most successful things they tried involved advertising during the Cubs telecasts.
“Last year when the Cubs started baseball at the end of March, our website traffic jumped up to 50 times higher than before the season. Then at the end of the season we looked again, and it was down 150-200%.”
Johnson also shared anecdotal evidence from a recent car buying experience.
“I went to buy a car and the salesman save Elk Grove Village on my paperwork. He looked at me and said, ‘Makers Wanted.” I asked him how he knew our slogans and he said it was from the Cubs games.”
Other anecdotal evidence comes from conversations Johnson has had with mayors around the country who are suddenly aware of Elk Grove Village and the “Makers Wanted” slogan.
“It’s name recognition and branding we’re looking for,” Johnson said when asked how he measures the success of his marketing efforts.
Elk Grove Village has seen its marketing translate to more than simple anecdotal evidence, however. When the village began its advertising push its vacancy rate in the industrial park was 7% — now it’s under 3%. “It’s a record for this village to have under 3% vacancy,” Johnson said.
Although the Cubs gave the village some name recognition locally, Johnson believes becoming the title sponsor of the bowl game will increase exposure on a more national level.
“Sports are one of the last things people watch live,” Johnson pointed out. “Leading up to the game, ESPN will be referencing the ‘Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl’ multiple times, allowing millions to hear our slogan.
“People will be curious and they’ll Google ‘Makers Wanted’ and our town will pop right up.”
Johnson said the bowl game in the Bahamas specifically made sense for a couple of reasons.
“You know it’s going to be great weather for the teams. And the MAC has a tie-in. Northern Illinois is in close proximity to Elk Grove, so they could end up at the bowl game.”
Johnson says the deal is fairly low risk for the village, as it’s only a one-year deal with an option for the village for a second year. He’s excited about the possibilities, however.
“[Tonight] we have Bret Michaels doing a concert by the village hall. We have hundreds of t-shirts with the ‘Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl’ logo we’ll be tossing out to the crowd as we make the announcement and begin to get people excited about it.”
Johnson isn’t the only one celebrating the partnership. Richard Giannini, Executive Director of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, is looking forward to the partnership as well.
“We are excited to have Elk Grove Village as the title sponsor of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl,” said Giannini.
“It is a unique sponsorship that allows Elk Grove Village and its thriving business community to take the Makers Wanted message to a national audience on ESPN. We thank Mayor Craig Johnson for his innovative vision, and we look forward to another great bowl game this year.”
The agreement between ESPN Events and Elk Grove Village was brokered by Denver-based Impression Sports & Entertainment for ESPN, and Banner Collective along with 4FRONT for Elk Grove Village.