Uncle Sam Could Sure Use You!
Serving and supporting our troops through marketing programs
By Kurtis Katz, CMO/Partner
Over the past three decades, Americans have found a true appreciation for our U.S. troops. I believe this renewed support started back in 1991 during the Gulf War and perhaps hitting its high point during 9/11… and it still continues today. Americans are witnessing firsthand the sacrifice and bravery our young men and women continue to exhibit by fighting for human rights and freedom across the globe. Many Americans still have differing opinions on these foreign conflicts and wars, but one ideal that we all have come to recognize and embrace is the sacrifice and hardship our troops experience and we feel honored to support them and their families during this time in history.
One way our country has celebrated and supported our troops over the years has been through the USO (United Services Organization). After WWII, the USO seemed to be forgotten until the Vietnam War kicked off in the late 60’s and once again, Americans became reintroduced to the USO. Leading that charge was Bob Hope, with his numerous overseas visits along with his popular NBC TV specials. And today, the USO is still alive and lifting the spirits of our troops and families all over the world. With many large donations, and support from the entertainment community, the USO continues to expand and offer many more services to our troops here on the main land and overseas.
The USO is one of the largest non-profit organizations that has worked in partnership with the DOD (Department of Defense) supporting the troops and their families with programs, services and live entertainment since 1941. However, with our troops in over 160 nations around the world, their main focus has been overseas which leaves a much needed opportunity to serve and impact our troops and their families here in the good old USA. With budgets remaining tight, there is no doubt that our troops here at home are starving for some of that same support the USO/DOD has been providing overseas. This is a golden opportunity for many organizations, companies and brands alike to fulfill this role by providing that positive support of services, programs and entertainment here at the many U.S. military bases throughout the country.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the bases around the country are definitely offering the troops morale support by creating and developing programs, events and entertainment, but it’s on a very small scale because they just don’t have the same financial support of the DOD.
Over the years, there have been a few companies that have truly reached out and supported the troops through showcasing their services and products at individual military bases. The first that comes to mind is General Motors. They have brought their array of GM vehicles to the individual bases for test drive events, airshows as well as offering a special military discount on their vehicles. The military has really appreciated their support. Just in the past few of years, Toyota has really stepped up to the forefront by sponsoring and displaying at base focused Boot Camp runs, Christmas festivals and test drive events.
Additionally in 2013, Toyota along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors launched a significant program with the military by sponsoring the Hiring Our Heroes program. Their goal is to support many of the military veterans and troops who are just about to leave the military with career assistance and opportunities. In fact, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the nation has taken the Hiring Our Heroes program to the next level by announcing that they will hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. (NY Times 2013) They also have a separate jobs program that is focused on spouses of military personnel. These are much needed and vital programs especially for the troops who are currently serving in the Middle East or have just finished their active tours in the Middle East.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for companies and organizations when you consider there are 206 active military bases (U.S.DOD 2012) and over 1.1 million active military personnel in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau 2012) while this doesn’t even include veterans or their families. The median income for a military family is between $42,000 & $62,000 per year depending on rank (DOD Active Duty Military Personnel Report Nov. 2012) while they are responsible for contributing over $70 billion to our economy annually. However, good portion of their spending takes place on and around the base. (Alloy Marketing Military Explorer survey 2009)
So are you getting the point here? There is just a plethora of opportunities for organizations, corporations and brands to serve, support and entertain troops here in the U.S. Most importantly, they deserve your attention and they want your participation. This is one draft everyone should sign-up for!