Sports-Related Military Recruiting Initiatives Today
armed forces have traditionally had a lot to offer for new entrants into the job market, but in recent months, these benefits have increasingly been insufficient to sell the idea of military service to young people during a time of war. In response to this shortfall in recruiting levels, military recruiters have resorted to a number of alternative approaches to marketing military service as a viable option to qualified candidates. To determine the current initiatives being used by military recruiters today, this paper will provide a review of the military's use of sports, specifically racing such as NASCAR and NHRA for recruiting purposes. An examination of the effectiveness, associated costs, and the history of these sports-related initiatives will be followed by a summary of the research and an assessment of current and future trends in the conclusion.
Review and Discussion
Background and Overview.
At a time when the United States is trying to wage an increasingly unpopular war on terrorism on a number of fronts, particularly in far-away Afghanistan and Iraq, many young people are apparently thinking twice though about enlisting in the military service today. Recruitment quotas for almost all of the military services are dropping, with the National Guard representing the biggest concern with a 30% decline in recruiting for the months of October and November 2004 (Nevius, 2005). The regular Army has managed to meet its enlistment goals; however, this achievement has come at a high cost. "The Army has added 1,000 recruiters -- for a total of 7,000 across the country -- and two years ago doubled its advertising spending, to $592 million. Standards for incoming recruits have been lowered for the first time since 1998, and benefits and signup bonuses have been increased" (Nevius, 2005, p. B-1). Perhaps one of the most visible responses to the lagging enlistment rates has been the military's use of sports-related sponsorships to bring their message to their key demographic target: enlistment-aged young people.
Sports-Related Recruiting Initiatives.
The National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) is one of the fastest-growing spectator sports in the world today, and enjoys one the most highly visited Web sites in the world with more than a billion page views each year (About Us, 2005). The NASCAR drivers have become enormously popular and when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finally won a race recently, his crew members could be seen quaffing frosty cans of Budweiser, which was not surprising since this company is Dale's primary sponsor (pers. obs). These views of these highly popular celebrities drinking a specific brand of beer on national television are powerful influences in today's marketplace, certainly, and it is not surprising that military recruiters have also recognized the value of these events when it comes to NASCAR, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and other sports-related activities and the hearts and minds of young people across the country (Nevius, 2005).
The U.S. Army in general and the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard in particular have experienced growing problems in meeting their enlistment quotas despite their increased use of highly expensive professional sports-related initiatives (Nevius, 2005). According to Nevius, "The Army has responded with a new strategy. It bombards MTV with ads, suggesting a visit to goarmy.com to play a video game. It has sponsored a NASCAR entry and a NHRA dragster. And it is sending activity exhibits to schools and campuses" (p. B-1). By sharp contrast, the U.S. Marine Corps (Paige, 1999), Air Force (Air Force Sports program, 2005) and Navy (Wagner, 2005) appear to be enjoying some success with their emphasis on sports-related recruiting. In fact, Moniz (2005) reports that although the Army is struggling to meet its recruiting quotas, "the Air Force and the Navy are having banner years and may wind up turning away thousands of potential recruits" (p. 1). According to Moniz, the Air Force has a backlog of approximately 9,000 enlistees they have not been required to call to active duty yet, and they have reduced their 2005 recruiting goals from 35,000 to 24,000. Taken together, the Navy and Air Force and Navy are reducing the total number of active duty members by more than 27,000 this year; by contrast, the Army and the Marine Corps (which provide the majority of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan), are trying to increase their roles by more than…