U.K. soccer players wear "Visit Florida" uniform

- What do London, soccer and Florida have in common? These days, quite a lot.

One U.K. team and its players have become human ads for the Sunshine State. This unlikely group more than 4,000 miles across the pond is actually scoring extra business for Tampa Bay.

If you catch any Fulham soccer games this year (or, as U.K. fans call it, football) you can't miss it. In large letters across the front of the team's shirts are the words "Visit Florida."

So, how in the world did our state become the main sponsor of London's oldest football club?

"We are front and center with it and that has created a lot of interesting dialogue in connecting Fulham, London to Florida and it's exactly what we wanted," said Visit Florida Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps. "The U.K. and Germany like central Florida. It's really their first choice versus south Florida. I think this really plays well for Tampa and St. Pete and all the things you have to offer there."

What's the Florida connection? Shahid Khan, Chairman of Fulham also happens to be Chairman of the Jacksonville Jaguars. For every dollar invested, Visit Florida expects more than $3 in return.

Even rapper and Florida Ambassador Pitbull has one, with his signature number/Miami area code "305."

So does Matt Chantry, Club Secretary of Fulham in Florida.

"It's huge," said Chantry. "I think a lot of Brits know about Orlando, but I think Visit Florida would open up the rest of Florida to people in Britain. Tampa, where I've been living the last 3 years, Miami, the Florida Keys, those areas maybe aren't as visited as Orlando. I would hope that Visit Florida campaign exposes those areas to Brits so they are not just coming to Orlando when they come to Florida."

When Visit Florida comes in with the assist, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater scores.

"Visit Florida will push the brand of Florida as a general umbrella and we go in underneath it with a very specific message to come to St. Pete/Clearwater," said VSPC Deputy Director David Downing.

2015 brought VSPC's first-ever U.K. ad campaign. Even audio for ads running across the pond are tailor-made with British accents and catchy phrases like, "a little warm sun might relax that stiff upper lip."

"We are competing with places like Dubai and the Seychelles and Northern Africa for tourism because those are much closer destinations if you live in London," said Downing. "But, there is something about the American beach product."

This season, fans watching their team in foggy London town may find themselves distracted by thoughts of a holiday in sunny Florida.

"We are on TV a lot in the U.K.," said Chantry. "We were just on TV this last Friday in the U.K. and you could see Visit Florida prominently on the shirts."

Football and Florida? It's a "match" made in... London.

It's not just the shirts. Visit Florida also has signage rights inside Fulham's stadium and on the landing approach near Heathrow Airport. Every few seconds, a plane full of passengers see beaches, roller coasters and a reason to book their next plane ticket.
 

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