- The spread of the coronavirus has forced the military service branches to alter their recruiting and training efforts.
- For the Navy’s esports team, recently established to aid that recruiting, the pandemic has forced some scheduling changes but hasn’t derailed its outreach to potential sailors.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The military is proceeding cautiously with its recruiting and training, hoping to limit the spread of the coronavirus. For the Navy’s new esports team, Goats & Glory, that has impeded some programs but hasn’t slowed its outreach.
Navy Recruiting Command announced the formation of the team in February, saying it would add to its “multi-faceted outreach campaign” by “engaging with prospective sailors online and at gaming venues.”
The campaign kicked off in late February at DreamHack Anaheim, where team members played attendees. The Navy has already lined up partnerships with Twitch, a major live-streaming platform, with ESL, the world’s largest esports company, and with DBLTAP, an esports website that will work with the Navy on “role comparison” videos highlighting similarities between jobs in the Navy and roles on an esports team.
Coronavirus-related precautions have affected some of those plans.
“With the role-comparison videos, we were actually in the early stages of the production planning” when those precautions when into effect, “which of course impacted all travel,” Allen Owens, Navy Recruiting Command’s deputy chief marketing officer, told Insider on Wednesday, adding that the production is “on hold.”
Also affected was the team’s participation in DreamHack Dallas, scheduled for May.
“We were going to have a presence there and have our gamers up and ready to engage with the crowds,” Capt. Matt Boren, chief marketing officer for the command, told Insider, adding that the event had been delayed until August.
But other than “general rescheduling,” Boren said, “there’s been really no impact to the overall establishment of the sports team, the streaming on Twitch, and it actually is enhancing our virtual recruiting strategy right now.”
Navy recruiters are making calls and FaceTiming and coordinating with the team to do that recruiting, Boren said.
“So any way we can help produce leads and hand them over to field recruiters to help educate our audience about opportunities in the Navy is really what we’re after. It’s how we find the top talent that we need,” Boren said.
A booming business with a young audience
Goats & Glory isn’t the Navy’s first foray into online gaming, nor is it the military’s first esports team; the Army set its own team up two years ago. But the Navy, like other services, is shifting recruiting resources into digital media to reach young Americans, particularly those between 17 and 24 years of age.
The Navy is always looking for new ways to market itself to future sailors, Boren said. “What it came down to is esports is a booming business with millions of consumers, and we wanted to make sure we had a means to reach that audience.”
Navy Recruiting Command looked at the Army’s esports experience, inquiring about everything from establishing a team to setting up a gaming station, and is partnering with the esports industry.
The ad agency VMLY&R, which is the Navy’s ad agency of record and has already helped the service partner with YouTube creators, reached out to industry on behalf of the service, Boren said.
“One of the requirements was wherever Navy invests, we need to be able to show some return on investment — how many people are being reached, what kind of engagement we’re getting on that platform,” Boren said. “They have experts within their company that do other esports for other clients. So it was really a lot of their expertise, and then they made recommendations to us on where they thought the Navy would fit in best.”
That yielded partnerships with Twitch, ESL, and DBLTAP, as well as the presence at DreamHacks, Boren said.
The role-comparison videos to be developed with DBLTAP are especially important, Boren said. “We hope that this content will be compelling so that people can say, ‘OK, the stuff you are as a team member in role-playing and gaming sports has some applicability in real life.'”
Goats & Glory has 10 members stationed across the US, some of whom will move to Navy Recruiting Command’s base in Millington, Tennessee, from which they’ll stream and do outreach. The command is looking for six more members for its “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” team.
To help evaluate sailors who want to join — an application process that focuses on but isn’t limited to “CS:GO” on PC — the Navy is working with Twitch as well as Evil Geniuses, a well-known esports organization founded in 1999.
Evil Geniuses brings needed expertise to the search, said Lt. Robert Dyer, esports program manager for Navy Recruiting Command.
“This is what they do for a living,” Dyer told Insider. “They’re going to look at these candidates and be able to tell us, ‘Hey, this person, I can see what he’s doing in the game, and he has the right reaction time, the right kind of knowledge of match awareness and … the right fluidity to move about the map, the right comms to use, the right shortcuts.”
“Even something as simple as weapons selection, spray patterns, they know those things inside and out, and they’re going to be able to tell who knows those things and who doesn’t, just based on watching somebody play,” Dyer said.
The command’s long-term goal is a competitive team of six at its headquarters and a pool of gamers around the world who can stream and attend events.
‘It’s been a great experience’
Interest among current and potential sailors has been strong, the officials said Wednesday.
The internal application portal opened about two weeks ago and has already received more than 1,000 responses — “that’s a really good response rate for us,” Dyer said.
That application asks for a range of information, including rank and other statistics for “CS:GO” specifically but also for details of the applicant’s overall competitiveness.
“We’re also looking at do you stream, to kind of get an idea of do we have any of that talent out there in the Navy community already that we can tap into,” Dyer said. “Also just the general [question], why do you want to join the team? Because everybody has a story … and you’ve got to have the right personalities in the right places to really make any kind of sports team work.”
At DreamHack Anaheim, the Navy was the first presenting sponsor ever of the BYOC, or Bring Your Own Computer, activation space.
“We had a big 20-by-20 booth set up with a bunch of different stations … some X-boxes, some PlayStations, and then we had four PCs,” said Lt. Aaron Jones, a team member. “On the upper floor, where we were, we were the only active free play exhibit. So people would come up, and we’d have Navy people around the exhibit. We talked to them. We’d get them to sign in, just a general questionnaire … and then we’d be like, ‘Hey, do you want to play against one of our Navy esports team members?'”
The six primary team members were on hand to play with and against attendees in one-on-one and two-on-two Counterstrike matches, Jones said.
“We’ve got a bunch of people that we’re still in contact with today that talk to us all the time … on the America’s Navy Discord channel that we’ve got up,” Jones said. “We met a lot of great people who are just really interested in playing video games and some of them who are really interested in the Navy.”
Team members in the channel answer some questions with details of their own Navy experience, Jones said. Other questions, like about joining the esports team, are directed to Navy recruiters who can talk about the range of jobs in the service.
“Currently I think it’s over 80 people that we’ve met just in the last week, week and a half, that have popped into the Discord channel just to continue talking, and we’ve been building these relationships,” Jones said. “It’s been a great experience.”
Some observers have expressed reservations about the gaming industry partnering so closely with the military, while some in the military community have been reticent about targeting gamers.
Boren emphasized the scope of the effort, saying content that will be produced “is relevant to anybody. Even somebody that’s not interested in the Navy at all will find these videos entertaining because it will make them better gamers.”
The recruits the campaign wants to attract are also generally well suited for the range and complexity of the jobs sailors are asked to do, Boren said.
“We had a lot of people, at least some older people, who were kind of curious when we talked about Navy getting into the esports realm, because they’re like, ‘Are you going to be recruiting a bunch of couch potatoes?'”
“What we found is today’s gamers are very team-oriented. They can make split-second decisions. They can perform and communicate under pressure, good hand-eye coordination, really the ability to process a lot of information quickly.”
“If you think about the advanced systems in the Navy and modern warfare, you have to be able to consume a lot of information,” Boren added. “So the folks that are really good at gaming are exactly the kind of people that will do well in many roles in the Navy.”