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A Good Impression

In the very first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, played in December 2016 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, North Carolina A&T State University defeated Alcorn State University 41-34 in front of more than 35,000 fans. (Master Sgt. Chance Babin)

In the very first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, played in December 2016 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, North Carolina A&T State University defeated Alcorn State University 41-34 in front of more than 35,000 fans. (Master Sgt. Chance Babin)

Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Christian Funk serves as the honorary captain for the Air Force Academy during a recent Falcons football game. To his left is Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service chief of advertising. AFRC RS is getting the message out about the benefits of joining the Reserve at a host of sporting events.

Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Christian Funk serves as the honorary captain for the Air Force Academy during a recent Falcons football game. To his left is Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service chief of advertising. AFRC RS is getting the message out about the benefits of joining the Reserve at a host of sporting events. (Master Sgt. Chance Babin)

The Air Force Reserve logo was featured prominently during  the UFC 229 bout between Conner McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The Air Force Reserve logo was featured prominently during the UFC 229 bout between Conner McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. (Getty images)

The Air Force Reserve logo is displayed during a recent Vegas Golden Knights National Hockey League hockey game

The Air Force Reserve logo is displayed during a recent Vegas Golden Knights National Hockey League hockey game. (Master Sgt. Chance Babin)

Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Christian Funk was back on the field with the Air Force Academy football team Oct. 19 when the Falcons played the University of Nevada Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

A football standout at the Academy, Funk was the 1984 Western Athletic Conference co-defensive player of the year. He served as the honorary captain for the game against UNLV and was on the field for the coin toss.

“It’s a great honor to represent the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and the U.S. Air Force Academy,” Funk, who currently serves as the deputy director of strategy, concepts and assessments and deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements at Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon, said.

“It’s all I’ve ever known – being in the Air Force. It’s been my entire adult life and my family’s life. Seeing the Falcons play, especially having the privilege to be on the sidelines with the team, is always a humbling experience. Those kids were me and my teammates 35 years ago. It’s an ageless experience that was shared by many alumni on the sidelines Friday night at UNLV.”

Having appearances like Funk’s at the game is part of AFRC Recruiting Service’s efforts to partner with various sports teams and conferences to generate brand awareness and recruiting opportunities at sporting events.

At the collegiate level, AFRC Recruiting Service is currently sponsoring the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference. The Air Force Academy is a member of the Mountain West Conference.

AFRC is also the title sponsor for the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl and a sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mixed martial arts competition.

In addition to engaging with fans in Recruiting Service’s target demographic online and through digital placements, a recruiting team is often present at games with the Mobile Marketing Platform to actively recruit at these sporting events.
UFC 229, held on Oct. 6 and headlined by Conner McGregor versus Khabib Nurmagomedov, was one of the most watched events in mixed martial arts history.

The Air Force Reserve logo, placed in the UFC octagon, was featured prominently throughout the fight. A post-fight melee created a social media sensation as Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon exactly where the Air Force Reserve logo was displayed. Pictures and videos of the fighter exiting the octagon were featured in newspapers and television reports around the country, including ESPN Sports Center, the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today, to name just a few.

“The awareness of the Air Force Reserve created by this placement at UFC 229 far surpassed our expectations,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, AFRC RS chief of advertising. “The UFC audience is very patriotic and pro-military, so it is a good place for us to be telling the compelling story of the great opportunities and benefits the Air Force Reserve has to offer prior-service and non prior-service individuals.”

The three collegiate athletic conferences sponsored by AFRC are spread out throughout the country and are located near many bases that house Reserve units. In addition to football, RS advertises at other events like track and field, gymnastics, wrestling, volleyball and swimming to promote recruiting access to a more diverse audience.

“Having these sponsorships that are often co-located in communities near many Air Force Reserve locations will give us access to these institutions for branding and impression to let them know the many opportunities to serve in the Reserve,” Johnson said. “Many of these schools also have ROTC, which opens more doors.”
2018 is the third year AFRC has sponsored the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The contest is nationally televised and kicks off at noon eastern standard time on ABC Dec. 15 from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Celebration Bowl, which showcases the heritage, legacy, pageantry and tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, features the conference champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

“We are excited to be the title sponsor of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl,” Johnson said. “This year’s bowl game, which celebrates service, lines up perfectly with what the Air Force Reserve does every day serving our nation at home and abroad as part of this nation’s national defense. We are looking forward to telling the great story of the Air Force Reserve, its mission and the benefits of serving to a national audience.”

AFRC benefits from an amplification effect provided by sports sponsorships. Associating with a sports team or platform that is well established with a significant and enthusiastic fan base translates into a positive association of the Air Force Reserve in the viewpoint of those fans, Johnson explained.

“These sponsorships offer the Air Force Reserve an opportunity to engage with our target demographic in significant ways onsite and online.

From face-to-face interactions for our recruiting teams to digital engagements that create leads that go to our qualification center, we always focus on a positive return on investment to find the right people to fill positions at our locations across the United States,” the chief said.

(Babin is noncommissioned officer in charge of public affairs for AFRC Recruiting Service.)

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