Seeking to tap a younger band of recruits, perhaps with the fastest trigger fingers of all, the U.S. Air Force Reserve is teaming with online gaming service Total Entertainment Network, San Francisco, as the exclusive advertiser for a Quake II tournament next month. The competition, "Above and Beyond the Edge, A Quake II Capture the Flag Tournament," runs from October 5 to November 1 on TEN's gaming site. It marks the AFR's first use of the medium to woo potential recruits without any prior military experience.
The AFR traditionally has focused its online and offline recruitment efforts on ex-military types to fill its annual quota of 10,000 new sign-ups. But with downsizing efforts putting the crunch on each military branch, the AFR has turned to the Net to reach a younger crowd. Chief Master Sergeant Steve A. Turner, U.S. Air Force Reserve, said the TEN tournament is a good match of demographics and reinforces the Reserve's high-tech image. Turner added that he doesn't think the game's violent content will be a turn-off. "We realize that our target audience plays games and that's how we figure we'll reach them."
The tournament "is a great idea," said Jim Dangcil, who works for Disney Online and is a member of TEN's Professional Gamers' League. "It requires team play as opposed to straight killing. I know some people may be touchy about violence, but Quake is a well-accepted game. I don't see [the AFR] going out on a limb with this."
The event, customized specifically for the Reserve, will be open to all TEN members with premium accounts; it will feature up to 96 two-player matches, with the top six teams sharing more than $1,000 in cash and prizes. "They wanted to spread the word about the Air Force Reserve, increase recruitment and drive traffic to their brand new Web site," said Erik Lundberg, director of sales and interactive marketing for TEN. The company also designed banner ads, buttons and graphics for the AFR in cooperation with the AFR's agency, TMP Worldwide, Atlanta.
The AFR's annual ad budget is $2.5 million, mostly spent in print and radio. TMP vice president/account director, Byron Galway, would not disclose what percentage was earmarked for the Internet, but noted that a majority of those dollars went toward the launch earlier this month of the new AFR site. Net ad expenditures for the AFR should rise in 1999,