This weekend the eyes of the sports world will descend upon Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, as the annual Army-Navy Game, a.k.a. “America’s Game,” moves up the Jersey Turnpike from its customary home in Philadelphia, Pa., a pre-planned departure from the Philly tradition to help commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
What was not pre-planned was last year’s game, won by Army 15-0, which was played at Michie Stadium at West Point, N.Y., in front of limited numbers of Cadets, another Pandemic Pivot that certainly put a bit of a damper on all that surrounds one of the biggest—if not the biggest—rivalries in sports in North America on any level.
Also having to pick up and adjust was USAA, the military and veteran targeted financial service, banking and insurance brand that has used the annual Army-Navy tilt as its marketing “Super Bowl” for years.
The San Antonio, Texas-based company has numerous other sports activation partnerships—most notably as the Official Insurance Sponsor of the NFL as well as the NFL’s “Salute to Service” Partner and an official Monday Night Football Halftime sponsor on ESPN—and is one of the most proactive sports marketers in their very active category, but the Army-Navy Game? This game is USAA’s jewel event.
We’ve been curious to understand how the Pandemic Pivot worked for USAA? What all has been learned? How did you score Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ star Rob Gronkowski for your ad campaign? What’s it like to be on the road, outside the traditional location, for the 122nd staging of the game this year? And what is on tap for this weekend?
We asked Mayra Rivera, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, for insights on all the above as USAA heads into its centennial year in 2022. A lightly edited version of our Q&A follows…
Team Marketing Report: How significant from a business opportunity is it to have Army-Navy in a location other than Philadelphia for this year?
Mayra Rivera: For USAA, our commitment to supporting the Army-Navy Game — which extends to the Academies and entire military community — is and always will be unwavering in support, no matter the game location. While Philadelphia is certainly known as the Game’s traditional home, the hosting of the game in other cities, such as New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., for example, does allow for additional business opportunities. On a practical level, it allows us to host and engage with military community members who otherwise wouldn’t travel to Philadelphia during a normal Game year.
The history. The tradition. 🇺🇸
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) November 13, 2021
TMR: Last year was a challenging year for us all, what best practices has USAA taken away that are now being implemented across their sports practices?
MR: While USAA will return to in-person events and experiences with this year’s Army-Navy Game, most notably the hosting of Army-Navy Media Row and our Army-Navy House activation outside the stadium on game day.
We are carrying forward digital elements for those who cannot attend in person, or choose not to. For Army-Navy specifically, we’ve re-launched ArmyNavyHouse.com [see header image for landing page art] where fans can go and enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to next year’s game. Going forward, our goal is to continue to offer both in-person and digital experiences as a best practice to reach the widest possible audience.
TMR: How has the partnership with “Gronk” worked for the brand? It is a little different from the past programs.
MR: We chose to work with Rob Gronkowski because he is a well-known NFL Super Bowl Champion who supports and advocates for the military community. While he personally is not eligible for USAA membership, he understands how special our military community is and that they deserve outstanding service and support.
The angle of this advertisement is a first for USAA — we are clearly highlighting that not everyone can be a USAA member and that we are reserved for those who serve our country. We have more than 13 million members, but more than half of those eligible for USAA membership are unaware of USAA or that they can become members. Since USAA is exclusively focused on serving our military members and their families, our teams needed to be creative in how we reach our current and prospective members.
TMR: Army-Navy remains such a focal point for USAA. Why does this event, compared to all the other places USAA activates, hold such power for the company?
MR: For USAA, our commitment to supporting “America’s Game” — which extends to the Academies and entire military community — is and always will be unwavering in support. The Army-Navy Game is certainly special for those on the field, but it also serves as a time where we can recognize, honor, and appreciate the future military leaders of this country.
Going forward, our goal is to continue to offer both in-person and digital experiences as a best practice to reach the widest possible audience.
TMR: Lastly, what activation for this year’s game at MetLife, on-site, locally or on the broadcast, will be different for fans?
MR: Last year, when we were all watching from “home” due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, our all-digital activation theme was “Army-Navy House.” It was a digital experience hosted on ArmyNavyHouse.com where fans could enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to this year’s game in New York.
This year, with the return to in-person experiences, we’ve re-launched the site—with a similar sweepstakes to win a trip to next year’s game—but have also added an in-person Army-Navy House activation area outside the stadium that is built for fans to safely interact with, as they make their way inside the stadium. We’ve created one Army-themed house and one Navy-themed house, with fun, interactive games for fans to play and enter the sweepstakes.
Army-Navy Game Notes
What: 122nd game in the annual college football series featuring the U.S. Military Academy against the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy leads, 61-53-7)
When: Sat, Dec 11, 2021 (First game: Nov 29, 1890, at West Point, N.Y.)
Where: MetLife Stadium (Meadowlands, N.J.)
Watch/stream: CBS Sports
Radio/audio: Westwood One Radio Network
Social media: Look for #ArmyNavy, #BeatArmy and #BeatNavy. The game also has its own social media handles:
- Facebook – www.facebook.com/armynavyfootballgame
- Twitter – www.twitter.com/armynavygame
- Instagram – www.instagram/armynavygame
- Army – United We Stand (Nike; see above)
- Navy – Naval Aviation and the F/A-18 Super Hornet (Under Armour; see below)
To view past TMR Q&As, click here.