NBCUniversal Calls Potential U.S. Army Recruits to Attention With Multiplatform Blitz

Nick Jonas Performs
Parts of Nick Jonas' performance will appear in a special on Peacock (Image credit: NBCUniveral)

NBCUniversal is bringing out the big guns to help the U.S. Army reach potential recruits.

Elements of NBCU’s effort include staging a Salute to Summer concert with The Voice judge Nick Jonas at Universal CityWalk in California.

The concert is the centerpiece of the first branded special on streaming platform Peacock. The NBCU Advertising and Partnerships creative partnerships team is also producing a series of vignettes that will run on NBCU channels including Telemundo, as well as websites and social platforms. 

The onslaught also includes Web3 digital collectibles designed to create interaction with the military’s target demographic of 16-to-21-year-olds.

The Army is spending $117 million to relaunch its “Be All You Can Be” slogan. Its campaign began with commercials that appeared during March Madness on Warner Bros. Discovery’s coverage of the men’s college basketball championship tournament.

NBCU is going beyond commercials with branded content and on-site activations.

“It’s like nothing the military has ever done before,“ NBCU senior VP, agency partnerships, Advertising & Partnerships Michael Alvarez told Broadcasting+Cable. “There are elements of this that are new not just for a military brand, but for any brand that we’ve worked with. It uses everything we have in our arsenal, if you will.”

Stemming a Recruiting Slowdown

The Army has been having trouble attracting volunteers lately. Military recruitment is down 25% versus quota and only 9% of people 16 to 21 years old are expressing interest in serving.

The multifront approach was developed and negotiated with Team DDB, a collection of marketing agencies supporting Army recruiting led by Omnicom’s DDB Inc.

“Omnicom gave us great access to the media leads at the Army,” Alvarez said. “They asked a thousand questions and we came up with three core principles.”

The principles were to celebrate those who serve, to educate potential recruits on what their service might look like and to explain how service will set them apart for the future.

“The U.S. Army is a body of possibilities for today’s youth,“ Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing, said. “Whether soldiers are looking to build a rewarding career, continue their education, or start a family, the Army is committed to helping soldiers build the future they’re looking for and become the best versions of themselves. Our partnership with NBCUniversal helps us meet our future soldiers where they are today, acknowledging their life and career priorities and the Army’s role in helping them achieve them.”  

Staff Sgts. Lamar Riddick (L) and Nicholas Feemster (R)

Army rappers Staff Sgts. Lamar Riddick (L) and Nicholas Feemster (R) (Image credit: NBCUniversal)

The concert was held June 2 at Universal CityWalk, adjacent to NBCU’s Universal Studios Hollywood. “The timing was perfect because many young people were finishing school and thinking about their future,” Alvarez said.

Also performing were America’s Got Talent finalist Preacher Lawson, Bodie from The Voice and the U.S. Army’s first hip-hop artists, Staff Sgts. Nicholas Feemster and Lamar Riddick.

In addition, the campaign’s ground game included activations at the Universal parks in California and Orlando, where visitors could interact with enlisted men and women at an obstacle course based on American Ninja Warrior.

There was also a red carpet event with a private screening of the latest film in Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise, Fast X. The Jonas performance is being edited into a 30-minute special presented by the U.S Army that will stream starting July 7 on Peacock. The special is hosted by Erin Lim Rhodes, host of E! News’s The Rundown.

Jonas wanted to be a part of the campaign because his grandfather was in the military. He also appeared in the film Pearl Harbor, has 35 million Instagram followers and is touring this summer with his brothers.

Rank-and-File in the Spotlight

The special will also feature “Soldier Spotlights,” vignettes created by NBCU. One features a classically trained violinist from the Juilliard music school who is now in the Army symphony band. Another highlights a physical therapist who serves in the Army and helps soldiers in training recover from injuries. He talks about how his father passed away from cancer and how that inspired him to join the Army and help others physically.

A third Soldier Spotlight features a woman who is passionate about jewelry design and works in the Old Guard, the ceremonial unit of the Army. She creates medals, badges and uniform patches.

NBCU Army Vignette

Violinist and Staff Sgt. Jordan Hendy in a vignette (Image credit: NBCUNiversal)

The spotlights offer “a different spin on what your career in the Army might look like for you rather than what you might imagine,” Alvarez said.

For the campaign, Jonas also filmed an extra song in 3D to create his first virtual reality performance. People can access it with a QR code and have Jonas appear to perform in their living room or backyard.

The elements will be used in both traditional media and social media to reach younger people who might consider enlisting. Also aimed at younger viewers are Web3 executions, such as limited edition collectible NFTs that can be mined for rewards and giveaways. Rewards include movie tickets from NBCU’s Fandango unit and subscriptions to Peacock.

The Army will be running commercials on NBCU platforms, including The Voice. “Entertainment programs make sense because it’s about reaching the influencers in the family, and not just the kids,” Alvarez said. “It’s a nice combination of linear and digital and social and streaming.”

Enlisting Integrations

During Military Appreciation Month in May, NBCU integrated the U.S. Army into The Voice and America’s Got Talent. The Voice featured a performance by the Army Field Band and pointed out Army personnel in the audience. America’s Got Talent host Terry Crews introduced a montage of talented Army acts and thanked service personnel and veterans in the audience for their service.

NBCU and the Army will be watching to see how effective the campaign is. Some elements, including the VR performance and the NFT, will be easy to track in the short term, but reversing the recruiting trend is a longer-term battle.

“The Army understands that it’s hard for them because their conversion timeline is so long and it’s hard to truly quantify the impact,” Alvarez said.

“I don't think this is going to be a one and done for them,“ he said. “They know they have to reinforce it. Whether it’s one and done with us, we'll see. But we certainly like our position with them. We blew it out of the park.” 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.