GRAND LEDGE, Mich. –
The Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) Recruiting and Retention Battalion (RRB) has come up with a new and creative way to reach its target market. On July 15th, The MIARNG partnered with student-athletes from the University of Michigan as more than 120 players rushed the Grand Ledge Armory, which hosts the 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, making up the General Support Aviation Battalion.
On Dec. 30, 2020, Michigan passed a law that allows a college athlete to receive compensation for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness (NIL). This triggered outside-the-box thinking in how Michigan Army National Guard recruiters can reach target audiences for enlistments.
“We are always looking for creative ways to get our message to as many people as possible,” said Sgt. Maj. Dave Lewis, the recruiting and retention operations sergeant major. “We leveraged the NIL and teamed up with players who have influence in their communities that can help us reach our target market.”
This initiative evolved from a social media push by MING leadership and the recruiting and retention battalion. Selecting NIL influencers with the biggest social media followers was key.
“The Michigan National Guard and student-athletes from the University of Michigan are two premiere teams,” said 1st Lt. Jerred Johnson, Bravo Company, RRB. “They have an attack program which is similar to an Army-based values system and the best way to reach 17-24 year old prospects is to have influencers in their market tell them about the National Guard and what it offers.”
Using Name, Image, and Likeness, the recruiting and retention battalion selected 12 players who have the highest social media following.
“Social media influencers—that’s what these players are and that’s how potential future Guard members get the message and information in what they want to do,” said Johnson.
The NIL will run a 90-day campaign beginning August 1st. During this event, videographers were able to capture video of the players for future use.
“We are collecting footage to create montages of the NIL players,” said Johnson. “Each NIL player will do a 60-second video focusing on what they’re doing here today and discuss the benefits of joining the National Guard. We are going to try to generate leads that way and build our own social media reach.”
“I think it’s going to be a huge impact for the National Guard and showing the demographics that we are trying to reach,” he added.
Prior to the event, players were briefed on Army values.
“A few months ago, we met with the players on their turf and gave them an Army values brief, what the National Guard does, and how it ties into the player’s values,” said Johnson.
Others echoed the value system as the players were able to hear from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
“Our super bowl is when we deploy to combat operations overseas,” said Rogers. “We are value-based and exceptional and if you think about your program, you are world renowned, nationally ranked, and you make a difference in your community every day. Your program is a center of influence and you have a broad reach and your performance as leaders and community engagers is critical.”
“It is very important we never lose sight of our values and mission and we share a common interest and support one another—you stand on a legacy that others built every day, just like the military,” he said.
The University of Michigan’s football team Director of Strength and Conditioning, Ben Herbert, was also at the first-ever National Guard-wide NIL event.
“The civic leadership role that each and every one of you play is significant,” said Herbert. “As you go through today, grow and develop—not only as a Michigan football player but as a representative of Michigan football—it’s going to make us all better.”
Connecting the oldest university in Michigan and oldest segment in the military was something new and one of the biggest pushed by recruiting leadership.
“This is probably the largest outside-the-box and non-traditional recruiting idea that has developed and been executed,” said Lewis. “We develop programs and tools necessary to achieve mission success and this will allow us access to a larger recruiting pool, making this mission a success.”
The Michigan National Guard offers benefits to further education. All members can be eligible for up to $14,400 in tuition assistance per year through the Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program, the GI Bill or the GI-Bill Kicker and receive cash bonus incentives up to $30,000 for selected military occupations.
Individuals looking for more information about how serving in the Michigan Army or Air National Guard can offer great opportunities are encouraged to contact recruiters at: Michigan Army National Guard recruiting, www.miarmyguard.com, 888-906-1636, the Michigan Army National Guard app, or Michigan Air National Guard recruiting, 1-800-432-4296 or Facebook at https://facebook.com/MIANGRecruiting/.