U.S. Army documents reveal canceled plans to recruit Gen Zers through Call of Duty
Vice’s Motherboard has shown internal U.S. Army documents that reveal canceled plans to recruit the younger generations through Call of Duty. They were acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows the public to access information from authorities.
The U.S. Army planned to spend millions of dollars to sponsor esports tournaments, CoD streamers and Twitch events to reach Gen Z audiences. The program targeted especially women and Black and Hispanic people.
The military wanted to use Twitch influencers to introduce “the wide range of skill sets offered by the Army” via original content videos. It also planned to familiarize the younger generations with the Army’s values and the opportunities it can offer.
U.S. Army plans to sponsor numerous events and streamers
The documents contain a table of various names of platforms, events and streamers that the Army wanted to sponsor, with Twitch and its Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Showdown at the top. The military planned to spend $1 million to fund the platform.
The Army would spend $750,000 on the streaming service Paramount+, the HALO TV show and the official Call of Duty League Esports tournament. The list also mentions sponsoring Call of Duty Mobile, which would receive $200,000. The military planned to reward players with in-game currency if they watched Army video advertisements.
A popular CoD streamer, Stonemountain64, is on the list. The Army wanted to pay the streamer $150,000 to promote the military to his 2.32 million subscribers. Streamers Swagg and Alex Zedra are also mentioned. However, their names received an asterisk, meaning the Army would pay them based on negotiations.
The Army did not forget to list the eSports team OpTic Chicago, which had previously collaborated with the military. The team had taken its members to transfer their in-game shooting skills into real life. Well-known companies like WWE and IGN are also included on the list.
U.S. Army abandons its plan
Attached to the documents is an email that reveals the Army’s intention to drop plans to sponsor any activities related to Activision. The email also mentions a recommendation for the Marketing Engagement Brigade to “not send their eSports team to the tournament.”
“I bring this to your attention because of the brand reputation issue,” the email says.
Motherboard has contacted Twitch, which said that the U.S. Army had not sent any sponsorship offers to Twitch Ads for the HBCU Esports League or specific streams. Motherboard also asked Activision and Paramount. The two companies have yet to send a statement.
A spokesperson from the U.S. Army later sent an email to Motherboard, saying that the campaign was planned to be similar to its other advertising moves. The Army had wanted to reach a specific market to gain more recruits.
“Ad recall and favorability are important as they are both industry accepted measures of effectiveness of the advertising and sponsorships we purchase. In Army marketing, we must meet the youth where they are and that is online,” the U.S. Army spokesperson said.
With the release of the document, concerns arose in the CoD community regarding the ethicality of the plan. Esports consultant Rod “Slasher” Breslau was invited to NBC’s NewsNation to share his opinion.
“I find it insidious that these streamers are recruiting gamers and young people on Twitch under the guise of just playing video games, but they are really there as recruiters,” Breslau said.