Struggling to entice new recruits, the US Army was prepared to spend millions of dollars on e-sports tournaments, sponsorships of popular Call of Duty streamers and other online gaming events, according to internal documents obtained by VICE’s Motherboard.
The sponsorships never came to fruition in many cases, as the military called off its spending after Call of Duty’s publisher Activision faced sexual harrassment complaints last year.
One document instructs the Army to “focus on the growth of females, Black & Hispanics.” The documents were obtained by Motherboard through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Among the events it wanted to sponsor was the Twitch platform’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Esports League. The Army planned to spend $1 million on that event.
Call of Duty was seen as a “potentially useful branding and recruiting tool,” Motherboard explained.
The documents proposed that Twitch influencers could “create original content videos showcasing the wide range of skillsets offered by the Army,” as well as familiarizing gamers with “Army values.”
The military wanted to spend $750,000 on the official Call of Duty League Esports and on the streaming service Paramount+, as well as $200,000 sponsoring the mobile version of the game. The documents suggested players who viewed Army ads would receive in-game currency. Popular streamer Stonemountain64, with an audience of more than 2.3 million, was also in line to be sponsored for $150,000.
The Army decided to “pause all activities” with Activision after accusations of sexual harrassment emerged in August 2021. Neither Activision nor the US Army provided Motherboard with a comment.
The Pentagon has been struggling to recruit Gen-Z, with Covid-19 restrictions and “shifting perceptions of the military” among the reasons, the outlet said. High standards around physical health, tattoos and past drug use are also putting some off, it said.
In June, NBC reported that every branch of the US military is behind in its recruitment targets for 2022. The outlet cited an internal Defense Department survey which found just 9% of eligible citizens aged 17 to 24 have any intention to serve in the armed forces, the lowest number since 2007.