Wisconsin National Guard
Just as a Soldier needs training and experience to get the most out of his or her equipment, Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiters contemplated if they could do more with the National Guard's partnership with World Wresting Entertainment.
"If you don't have an understanding of what WWE is, then you really don't understand the talent or how to utilize it," said 1st Lt. Johnny Simmons, marketing officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruiting and retention battalion.
For example, WWE Superstars such as Eve Torres and Big Show have recently made public appearances at Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiting offices - also referred to as "storefronts" - prior to live events in Milwaukee and Green Bay to draw WWE fans. Previously, WWE Superstars had met privately with National Guard members as a gesture of the corporation's support for the military.
"It will hopefully give some understanding that we're here," said Master Sgt. Gregory Backes of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruiting and retention battalion. "It kind of puts us on the map."
To make those public appearances pay off, recruiters are turning to technology and social media. For example, Backes used Twitter to promote Eve's Milwaukee recruiting office appearance, uploading photos of Eve signing autographs from his smart phone with the Tweet message: "She's here!"
Backes is also developing QR - quick-read - codes to link Soldiers and recruits with recruiters' Facebook pages, informational pages on the National Guard website, and promotional events.
"The idea behind it is, not just the QR code, not just Facebook, not just Twitter, but combining everything in social media that's out there right now," Backes said. "I've recruited for seven years, and when you put up a poster you'd put it up in the arcade where your target audience was. Well, now your target audience is using QR codes, using Twitter, using Facebook. If theyâ€™re going to the WWE event, our target market now is going to be on Twitter doing a search for WWE to find out what's going on with WWE. If we're on there and tweeting about it, they're going to see Eve is at our storefront, and maybe they'll head out. It's a common thing now. If we're not taking advantage of that, we're completely missing out on free and global marketing."
"For us in recruiting and marketing, it's more of a holistic approach, an all-encompassing approach," Simmons added. "That's why it's powerful."
The potential, Backes continued, is to have a WWE Superstar visit a National Guard unit. Photos of that visit would be uploaded to the local recruiter's Facebook page, tagging the Guard members shown in the photos. That makes the photos available to the Soldier's Facebook friends, generating interest and increasing the exposure of the Wisconsin National Guard - and perhaps resulting in some of those Facebook friends contacting their local National Guard recruiter.
"It's multi-level marketing," Backes said.
Another initiative is to create QR codes for videos of WWE Superstars talking about their support of the military and of the National Guard. Backes said that a WWE Superstar visit to a recruiting office means little to a Guard member or potential recruit living on the opposite side of the state.
"We can't bring everybody to a WWE event -it's very limited," Simmons said. "So we reached out to WWE - we know the talent supports the Guard, but not everybody has the chance to hear that. [The videos will] bring that WWE experience to them."
Simmons said he hopes the videos are ready to promote when the WWE returns to Milwaukee for a live television event in August.
But the new initiatives are intended to enhance, not replace, the traditional recruiting efforts. Eve's visit to the Wisconsin National Guard's Milwaukee recruiting office included static displays of uparmored Humvees and an inflatable canopy to draw attention to the location. Cards bearing Eve's picture along with information about her visit were distributed in the area, and WWE fans received various promotional items for Eve to sign.
"I absolutely love working with the National Guard, and all of the military," Eve said Feb. 19. "They are always some of my favorite appearances to do because everyone is just so appreciative and grateful and fun."
Eve added that the WWE prides itself on its support for the troops, noting that she has seen firsthand during three overseas shows what U.S. service members do on deployments.
"I realize that it's a choice that every service member makes to be there," she said. "They don't have to be there - they made a choice. For that reason I really want to support and help out all the service men and women in any way I can."
Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiters also manned a booth at the Bradley Center that night, giving away the same promotional items to WWE fans in exchange for a few push-ups.
"We've drawn a lot of attention with the [recruiting publicity items] that we brought out, co-branded National Guard and WWE," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Whelan. "Obviously WWE has a giant fan base, and it's a great place for us to interact with a big group of people in a huge venue, so it gives us a chance to mingle with a group that we don't get to see every day.
"I've handed out 20 business cards," Whelan continued, saying that he anticipates hearing back from as many as five genuinely interested people. "Anytime I can get in front of this many people and put my name out there, it's awesome. WWE allows us to bring to the table what we have to offer to an audience that doesn't know that much about the Wisconsin National Guard and what we offer."