TMR Q&A: Eric Engquist, USAA, on Army-Navy Game

Best Practice: Why USAA Doubles Down On Army-Navy

It would seem like preaching to the choir, having one of the nation’s biggest financial services companies that caters to the military and their families taking over what is the showcase event for the Service Academies every year, the Army-Navy Game. This year’s game is this coming Sat, Dec 14, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.

But that’s what San Antonio, Texas-based United Services Automobile Association (USAA) has done. 

USAA was founded in 1922 in San Antonio by a group of 25 U.S. Army officers as a mechanism for mutual self-insurance when they were unable to secure auto insurance because of the perception that they, as military officers, were a high-risk group. USAA has since expanded to offer banking and insurance services to past and present members of the Armed Forces, officers and enlisted, and their families.

Eric Engquist, VP, Enterprise Brand Management, USAA

The Fortune 500 company is a regular brand on a wide number of sports-related events, but it is this annual battle, first held in 1890 and staged each mid-Dec, which they use as their Marketing Super Bowl.

Included in the mix of branding and hospitality is a Friday Radio Row at the Pennsylvania Convention Center that is perhaps the second largest of any such event all year, behind only the Super Bowl, and it attracts a wide range of guests who are in Philadelphia for the annual gathering.

How and why does USAA take over Army-Navy? We asked Eric Engquist, VP, Enterprise Brand Management at USAA to explain the ROI.

Team Marketing Report: Doing a Radio Row that is second to the Super Bowl in size is a massive undertaking, how do you measure ROI on such a project?

Eric Engquist: We started Radio Row in 2009 as a way to bring the Army-Navy Game to some of our key markets with a focus on markets where the Army-Navy Game is watched or where it could be appreciated, and to help amplify the game.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve grown Radio Row from just one San Antonio radio station to more than 25 stations and media outlets from across the country. We’ve also increased our radio guest list which typically includes top-tier athletes, commentators and VIPs related to the game for interviews with each station.

We don’t just look at the numbers to measure success. We look at the experience each of the stations has, their desire to come back because the reception they get from their listeners, and the relationships we build.

TMR: USAA does a great amount of marketing in sports, where does Army-Navy rank among priorities and why?

EE: The Army-Navy Game is one of our signature events each year. As a company founded by and for the military, USAA’s sponsorship of the game allows us to show our support for the young men and women who attend the academies and commit to serving our country.

The game provides an unrivaled platform to connect with military audiences across the country – and across the globe as it is broadcast overseas.

TMR: Some may say you’re “preaching to the choir,” is it more reinforcing with members or finding a new audience?

EE: Since 2009, we have sought to grow the game and bring the electric atmosphere and experience to more people than those in attendance at the game.

Each year, we look at how we can drive viewership to the game and help bring awareness to one of the most storied college football rivalries. For those watching on TV or listening on the radio, they may not have an affinity for the Army-Navy Game, but are fans of the sport, which gives us an opportunity to bring the 120 years of traditions to them.

TMR: What makes the activation at Army-Navy different for the company than other events you engage with?

EE: As with all of our marketing activations, the Army-Navy Game gives us the opportunity to bring an engaging experience to the fans and interact with the game differently.

We focus our energy on creating a memorable and relevant experience rather than an informational booth to sell products and services.

This year, we’ve built our activation around the theme of “rivalry,” giving fans the opportunity to compete against one another as either ‘Army’ or ‘Navy.’

USAA banner ad on promoting a pre-game scavenger hunt activation
USAA also rotates Army-Navy Game banner ads touting their financial services

TMR: How do you measure success with this, and with all your sports sponsorships?

EE: Our key outcomes for the Army-Navy Game, and most of our sponsorships, focus around authentic appreciation of the military community and engagement.

We look at how successful we are at driving more people to watch the Army-Navy Game, capturing their attention through creative and engaging social and digital content, and having fans interact with us at the game through our activation and in-stadium assets. We also look at awareness of the game and any increases or decreases based on the strategy we deploy.

The back cover creative for the official game program of the 2019 Army-Navy game, a.k.a. “America’s Game”
Army-Navy Game Notes

When: Sat, Dec 14, 2019

Where: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Watch/stream: CBS Sports

Radio: Westwood One Radio Network.

Social media: Look for #ArmyNavy. The game has its own social media handles:

Sponsors: In addition to USAA as Presenting Sponsor, the three Participating Sponsors are Chevrolet, Exchange and Google. Chick-fil-A is an associate sponsor.

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