When Elk Grove Village resident Ron Braun first heard his town would be the title sponsor for the college football Bahamas Bowl, he had two thoughts: "What bowl is that?" and "Why are they spending our tax money on that?"
Six months since the announcement was made, Braun says he's become more open-minded after seeing the attention generated by Elk Grove's unique $300,000 marketing tactic. The nationally televised Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, which uses the village's business tag line, will be played Dec. 21 in Nassau, Bahamas.
"It does seem like a lot of exposure for the money," said Braun, who has lived in the village for 12 years. "But it really depends on if it is reaching the intended audience of decision-makers ... or if it's mostly reaching sports fans."
The village's decision to sponsor a bowl game received mixed reactions from community members when it was first publicized in July. Now, a week before the game, not much has changed -- some residents and local merchants believe it's a great idea, while others remain skeptical the "Makers Wanted" campaign will reap the intended rewards.
"I am by no means a marketing expert but sure would like to see an independent analysis after all is said and done," 35-year resident George Tyms said. "Are potential 'makers' going to pay attention to a second-tier bowl game? I would be surprised, but it remains to be seen."
The marketing strategy has had support all along from Debbie Handler, third-generation owner of the Elk Grove Bowl bowling alley. She believes it will help attract new businesses to Elk Grove and promote its 6-square-mile industrial park -- the largest in the country. She also pointed to the new $1 billion technology park being constructed in the village.
"What the mayor and trustees do to try to bring recognition to our town is really very positive," she said. "The more businesses that move to this area, the lower the taxes are for residents, so I would think that it's a good thing all around."
Kathy Jarosch, who runs Jarosch Bakery with her husband, said she, too, views the sponsorship as an innovative way of "putting Elk Grove on the map."
"I know sometimes you have to spend money to get money," she said. "So I'm going to hope that the risk of spending money brings a good response."
But Elk Grove resident Matt Matusiak, who has a Primerica financial services office in town, called the move a "waste of taxpayer money." He said he doesn't believe the "Makers Wanted" campaign is recognizable enough to successfully draw new investors to town.
Instead, Matusiak said, the village's marketing budget would have been better spent on funding fire and police services, or even installing cameras to monitor the business park.
Braun said the concept might be more well-received if Elk Grove sponsored a bowl game that is easier and cheaper for residents to attend. This year's Bahamas Bowl will feature Florida International University and the University of Toledo -- both fairly unfamiliar teams to Midwesterners.
But the quirkiness of the sponsorship is what Elk Grove resident Laura Chorvat thinks will help the village leave its mark on viewers. The "Makers Wanted" tag line could stimulate curiosity at a national level, she said, which could "drive businesses all over the place back to the Midwest, to Elk Grove."
Elk Grove is the first non-tourist municipality to sponsor a bowl game, according to ESPN, and has been the subject of several news articles and social media posts in the last several months. It also recently landed on FanBuzz's list of bowl games with "weird sponsors that in no way relate to football."
"If anything, it's putting our name out there," Chorvat said. "It's a marketing strategy. It's more than what we've spent (in the past), but at the same time, you've got to take your chances, and I'm all about that."