BOCA RATON, Fla. — The biggest event in Palm Beach County Tuesday night in Boca Raton for the annual Boca Bowl on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.
As much as it is about football, it’s a national opportunity to market the county.
This is the first time University of Alabama-Birmingham fans, Phillip and Caitlin Jones, have been to South Florida.
“Long drive,” Phillip said about another otherwise pain-free trip.
“I’m definitely used to it being more so in the 40s to 50s right now up in the Birmingham area,” Caitlin said.
Cindy Tucker was coming either way. Her son is a wide receiver for Northern Illinois University.
“Oh it’s a must,” she said about coming to South Florida. “My mom and dad flew down from Canada just so we could go to the bowl game because the weather and the place is absolutely beautiful.”
On an otherwise innocuous Tuesday, it’s primetime for Palm Beach County. The game has averaged a little less than 2 million viewers on ESPN across the country. The broadcasters prepared with talking points about the area, by the county’s official tourism agency, Discover the Palm Beaches.
At half-time, a commercial aired promoting the county.
“We’re allowed to now showcase some of our destination to new audiences that wouldn’t have been exposed to our destination otherwise,” said Rich Basen, the Senior VP of Marketing for Discover the Palm Beach.
In 2016, countywide visitor spending topped more than $3 million, according to Discover the Palm Beaches.
“We’ve had a lot of people in and out throughout the day. Northern Illinois people, UAB people,” said Rossa Flood, the owner of The Irishmen, a bar close to FAU’s campus.
And then there’s word of mouth, people telling friends and family about South Florida.
“We hope that people come and see the game, tell their friends and family this is a great place to visit so create almost grand ambassadors for our destination,” Basen said.
It does make a difference.
UAB defeated Northern Illinois 37-13 in the game.