The last thing you would expect to see written across a London footballer’s jersey are the words “Visit Florida” in big, blue letters. Yet it turns out that Fulham FC, the city’s oldest football club, isn’t just serving volleys into the back of the net; the team is also serving as the newest marketing platform for the Sunshine State’s tourism board.

British tourists play a large role in the state’s international visitations, says Paul Phipps, chief marketing officer of Visit Florida.

“The UK is one of our top countries and it has been for Florida quite some time,” Phipps says, noting that there were 1.6 million British tourists visiting Florida last year. “They have a great market for us that is full of families and leisure travelers, and we are always trying to find ways to communicate our brands in unique ways…to a person of interest or passion. And with football, there is a great passion there, so you look at where you can find your sweet spot.”

Visit Florida found its sweet spot by sponsoring Fulham FC. And although Phipps says the tourism board did look at working with both Manchester United and Arsenal, it saw more opportunity with the former English Premier League team.

“We measure everything on what kind of a return we can get on the money we invest, and Fulham is the oldest football club in London…and they presented us with an opportunity where we could get a really good return and connect to a passionate fanbase.”

In addition, Fulham’s owner, Shahid Khan, also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL team from Florida that plays a game in London once per year. Ultimately, Phipps says, sponsoring Fulham “made the most sense.”

The sponsorship, which runs now through the end of June 2016, marks Visit Florida’s first venture into sponsoring a soccer team and will, in a way, serve as an experiment for new and different ways to tell Florida’s story.

“We are going to keep a close eye on what happens this next year and see how we can leverage all the assets to see if we can drive additional visitations and bookings. If we do, we will continue to use this platform.”

Phipps says Visit Florida plans to track visitors monthly to see how tourism numbers are progressing as well as work with airlines and large travel agencies to monitor growth and additional bookings to determine the effectiveness of the sponsorship as a marketing platform.

“Today in doing partnerships with sports teams…it is not any more just about brand association. We are not out to create brand awareness but to use it to create conversions, and we think there is a way to do that.”

Phipps adds that soccer aligns well with Visit Florida’s message.

“With such passion in the game…the sport is all about having fun and brightening the lives of others,” Phipps says. “The purpose of our brand is to brighten the lives of all. We think [Florida] has something for everybody.”

Photo Credit: As Fulham FC celebrates a goal, Visit Florida hopes to catch the eyes (and travel plans) of British fans. Visit Florida