Army wanted to spend millions on Call of Duty, IGN for Gen Z

A loading screen from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare shows White Phosphorus as a killstreak.

Picture: Activision

The US Army player to soldier pipeline is hardly a secret at this point, but new documents show its recent detailed plans to spend millions recruiting Gen Z through gaming-related sponsorships and ad campaigns. The partnerships ranged from Duty calls Twitch streamers to sponsor content on IGN and G4with the aim of familiarizing the public with “army values” and strengthening its reputation among young people.

The plans were described in internal army documents obtained and published by Vice‘s Motherboard Thursday through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and they include a breakdown of projected marketing costs through 2022. $675,000 was proposed for WWE in June, $750,000 earmarked for Call of Duty League and Paramount’s Hello TV programand $300,000 listed for Duty calls esports team, OpTic Chicago.

The idea was apparently to use the popularity of Duty callsthe perennial best-selling shooter that has previously been turned upside down war crimes to killing sprees and violent geopolitics to bombastic playgrounds, to spread awareness of “Army Values ​​and Opportunities.” Also, one of the metrics for success when it came to partnerships with Twitch streamers and media was increasing favorability among survey respondents, particularly among women and black and Hispanic people.

A presentation slide shows the Army's eSports and gaming marketing plans.

Screenshot: US Army / Kotaku

Especially some previous sponsorship money for Duty calls League was canceled back in 2021, shortly after Activision Blizzard was sued by California regulators over allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. A month after the lawsuit was filed and media reports began pouring in about workplace issues at the publisher, Army’s deputy chief marketing officer, Ignatios Mavridis, announced internal plans to “immediately cease all activities with Activision” due to the “serious allegations,” according to an e -post accompanying the marketing documents.

A copy of a stop-work order for DDB Chicago, Inc, which was subcontracted to do the marketing, described one Call of Duty League sponsorship that cost $1.1 million and an Activision YouTube media buy that cost $170,000. Mavridis also suggested that the Army not send its esports team to participate in an upcoming Duty calls tournament.

The US Army’s Twitch debacle

This isn’t the first time the US military has tried to make inroads with younger Americans on Amazon’s streaming platform. The Army Esports team used to have its own Twitch channel, but eventually left the platform after being heckled by viewers over alleged war crimes and participating in fake giveaways.

Read more: Amid backlash, the US Army pulls back from Twitch

But the Army’s marketing plans extended to Twitch and some gaming media companies. $1 million was proposed to be spent on the streaming platform’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) The Showdown esports league. The documents also point to discussions with majors Duty calls streamers David “Stonemountain64” Steinberg, Kris “FaZe Swagg” Lamberson and Alex Zedra.

If you watched IGN‘s Summer Game Fest coverage or Summer of Gaming showcase back in June, you may have noticed frequent advertisements for the army. While we don’t know how much the Army actually ended up spending, the new documents suggest $600,000 for the world’s largest English-language gaming site, and $500,000 for G4, the recently resurrected and then shuttered gaming network.

A presentation slide shows the Army's marketing plans for gaming sites like IGN and G4.

Screenshot: US Army / Kotaku

While some IGN viewers were critical of the site’s Army partnership, two former G4 employees previously said Kotaku that own sponsorship was a source of much internal frustration. “Their response to the backlash was that they understood that G4 staff were largely liberal, but they didn’t want to alienate right-wing audiences in any way,” said one former employee.

Another described a tense meeting during the summer with the G4 management where the matter was raised. Joe Marsh, G4’s last boss before everyone was unceremoniously fired via a press release in October, apparently responded by saying the network was unable to decline sponsorships. “The crowd was audibly growling and, like, disgusted,” the person said. Some might consider it a testimony of ways G4 was mishandled that a historically irreverent voice in the gaming world had become so dependent on money from the US military in the first place.

“Army Marketing’s sponsorship objective is similar to all of our ad buys, which is to reach a specific market to support Army recruitment,” an Army spokesperson said. Motherboard in a statement. “Ad recall and favorability are important, as they are both industry-accepted measures of the effectiveness of the advertising and sponsorships we buy. In Army marketing, we need to meet youth where they are, and that’s online.”

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