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Ninety-seven percent of the Navy’s advertising budget will go towards this online ad strategy while the remaining three percent will go towards radio and billboard ads. The shift for the maritime branch is meant to better reach its target demographic between the ages of 17 and 28, as mentioned by Adm. Robert Burke, vice chief of naval operations, during a Military Reporters & Editors Association conference in October.
“One thing we did learn is — paying for a lot of TV ads in the middle of Super Bowl games — [the] target audience is not watching that,” Burke said at the event.
Since 2018, the Navy has steadily decreased its advertising budget for television, which ultimately reduced the organization’s recruiting expenditures without hindering its goals. For 2020, the Navy intends to add about 5,100 new recruits for an active-duty force of 340,500.
By February, the Navy will roll out its advertising initiative in competitive e-sports, according to the report. The massive budget allocation will also allow the Navy to become a formidable sponsor at various e-sport events. Additionally, the organization will start an all-Navy e-sports team.
E-sports viewership is expected to reach 84 million by 2021, according to a 2018 Syracuse University study the Navy Recruiting Command used to make its decision. The projection surpasses all other professional sports leagues except the National Football League, which is estimated to reach 141 million viewers within the same timeframe.
This monetary course correction follows the Navy’s increased YouTube presence. In one digital video series, Navy personnel compete against social media influencers in various skill tests that demonstrate what Navy life is like.
“Right now, it’s predominantly digital that’s bringing us better returns,” Burke said. “YouTube, five, 10, 15-second headers that repeat for the audience that shows interest in them, that turns into leads at call centers.”
According to YouTube Ads, most businesses start with advertising campaigns that cost at least $10 per day. These digital campaigns also offer an immediate return of 10 to 30 cents if a viewer interacts with the ad, whereas a 30-second television ad during the Super Bowl costs more than $5 million dollars and relies on viewers following through with a purchase at a later date.
“We had a lot more money running in TV three years ago. And now we’re focused on digital, and it’s just because a much younger cohort of people are consuming media online,” Sandra Muoio, a senior partner and group director for media at WM Global told USNI News. “When we look at the sports, we see e-sports is very young,”
The Navy isn’t alone in its digital pivot. The Army has its own e-sports team that actively competes in Call of Duty tournaments. It has also partnered with the e-sports organization Complexity Gaming earlier this year, which entailed a joint civilian gamer and active-duty soldier boot camp at Fort Bliss in June, according to a report from The Esports Observer. Post-exercise, the group competed against each other in a live-streamed tournament.
The Air Force has also signed a partnership with ELEAGUE, a professional e-sports league and championship gameplay broadcast that airs on TBS, Twitch, YouTube and Esporte Interativo. Since 2018, the Air Force helped produce content, deliver championship trophies and even became an MVP sponsor at the ELEAGUE Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major in Boston.