Colleen Heniff is back home in the suburbs for winter break -- a long way from her freshman campus dorm at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and even further from where her school's football team played Friday in the Bahamas.
But thanks to social media, the Lombard resident found a local watch party in Elk Grove Village for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl -- a matchup of the Charlotte 49ers and Buffalo Bulls.
"I didn't expect it to be around in this area," she said.
But with plans to study marketing in college, Heniff says she could appreciate the reason behind the watch party's location in Elk Grove Village.
The Northwest suburban town was the title sponsor of the bowl game for the second year, and for a $300,000 fee, the municipality got to affix its Makers Wanted business marketing tagline to the bowl game name and logo.
"I think it helps get a different type of crowd," Heniff said of sports fans learning about Elk Grove Village as a place to do business.
While Heniff had a rooting interest in the game itself, most of the others gathered Friday afternoon at Real Time Sports Bar and Grill on Devon Avenue cheered mostly during timeouts, when Elk Grove Village commercials aired.
One spot featured Mayor Craig Johnson and the Bahamas' minister of tourism, one was about how the village thinks "outside the box," and another highlighted Elk Grove's location at the "crossroads of technology and industry."
Another commercial that aired during the broadcast on local cable television was from Johnson's political opponents, promoting a local term limits proposal on the March ballot that would remove the mayor and other long-tenured village board members. Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Elk Grove Village, the 30-second spot featured video clips of President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama endorsing the idea of term limits.
The bowl game sponsorship was the brainchild of Johnson, the 22-year mayor and the town's chief booster, who was in the Bahamas all week for promotional events surrounding the game.
Several village trustees were at the sports bar Friday, including Chris Prochno, who said the end goal of the Makers Wanted marketing campaign is to keep the 6-square-mile industrial park full. Right now, vacancy is at less than 3%.
What helped after last year's game, she said, was the announcement that Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores plans to build a gas station in the business park. It's due in part to a company executive who was watching the bowl game and heard about Elk Grove.
But Prochno said she and other trustees have made it clear to the mayor that they are evaluating the bowl game sponsorship on a year-to-year basis.
"It was a touchdown for us last year," she said. "We'll see if the novelty wore off."