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A Different Approach to NFL Sponsorship: Why We Put Military First

by Community Manager

‎03-06-2014 03:21 PM

Brian EatonBy Brian Eaton

Director of Sponsorships


I love my job. I tell my co-workers every day that I may have the best job at USAA. What do I do? I get paid to build relationships through sports.


One of USAA’s objectives is to create remarkable customer experiences. We aim to go above and beyond to show our appreciation for the military and our members. I tackle both of those goals through our NFL sponsorship.


In many ways, my job is your average corporate marketing job. It’s about building brand visibility and loyalty. It’s differentiating ourselves from competitors. It’s recruiting collaborators who will help us reach our goals.


But mostly, my job is about people. It’s all about creating amazing experiences and lasting memories for the military and our members.


As the Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL, USAA can do that in some unique ways.


For instance, in November 2011, we took a basic hospitality promotion for the Pro Bowl — pregame food, music and fun — and ramped it up into the experience of a lifetime. We persuaded the NFL to conduct a 2012 Pro Bowl practice on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, exclusive to military and their families. We still had the food and fun, but getting to meet these NFL players — that was memorable. It’s seeing the delight on the faces of these service members and their kids that motivates us, and they’ll likely never forget the special day USAA gave them. Two years later, we still have more than 6,000 military and families who attend this practice.  


Practices are great, but obviously the crown jewel of the NFL season is the Super Bowl. Buying Super Bowl ads or organizing a big event near the stadium is not an efficient way to reach our target audience. Instead of spending millions on commercials, we have opted to create unique, highly relevant customer experiences for military members and their families. 


usaa_news_NFL-mil_chargers-card-stunt.jpgIn 2013, we hosted a Q&A in New Orleans with USAA members Roger Staubach, a Navy veteran and Pro Football Hall of Famer, and NFL cornerback Charles Tillman, whose father served 10 years in the Marine Corps and 20 years in the Army. Their honest, compelling conversation illustrated how military values led these men to NFL success. Attendees nodded in agreement with Tillman’s story of growing up military — attending 11 different schools, learning to adapt and making the most of his environment. The message hit home, and we knew we had the recipe for something great.


We built on our success in New York in 2014, when we hosted nearly 200 service members and their families at the USAA Salute to Service SitRep. The message touched nearly 1 million service members around the world on American Forces Network and The Pentagon Channel.


The military audience heard from Staubach and Tillman, as well as Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins quarterback, Heisman winner and son of two Army sergeants, and ESPN’s Trey Wingo, whose father served in the Navy. The result was entertaining, insightful and spot-on for USAA’s message.


Our alliance with the NFL has been a huge success, and it’s one that provides value to everyone involved.


Our tangible products might be insurance, home mortgages and checking accounts. But the intangibles we provide are just as valuable: memorable experiences, steadfast service and genuine appreciation. We work to make people happy, and in doing so, we create USAA ambassadors for life.


Check out the highlights from the USAA Salute to Service SitRep, conducted Feb. 2, 2014, in New York and broadcast on AFN and The Pentagon Channel.



And check out our Facebook page to see how USAA created lasting memories for more than 46,000 military members in Hawaii.

by OEF-OIF Ret MSgt ‎03-23-2014 10:12 AM

I ask USAA to re-evaluate whether the values of the NFL (gang culture, excessive money and bullying) are consistent with Military values.  I see a big disconnect!

by Sunny86 ‎09-16-2014 05:12 AM
I agree. I'm very disappointed that USAA is a sponsor of the NFL. Looking the other way when domestic violence and child abuse occurs is not supporting he traditional values of USAA. I'm sure the skyboxes and promotions are fun, but the greater good is at stake.
by Amos Kito ‎09-21-2014 09:19 AM

Dear Mr. Eaton,


As a longstanding member of USAA, a US Army veteran, a tax-paying citizen of the United States and a flesh-and-blood human being, I ask that you re-evaluate USAA's approach to NFL sponsorship and immediately withdraw any and all funding and support, both explicit and in kind, for that institution. It is beyond sad – in fact, is it horrifying and appalling – to think that a company with USAA's financial stature and supposed commitment to real American values would continue to back the NFL or any other organization that so continually and expressly fosters violence and criminality in its ranks. Some of our parents may have done so, and some of them may still defend doing so, but beating our spouses and our children is NOT an American value, and it is prominent, profitable brands such as your own that can wield the greatest influence on those who would condone or promote it as such. You must recognize – we all must recognize – that it is not acceptable to continue to lend support to the NFL by any means, whether by massive monetary contributions or by lying around watching football in our skivvies.


USAA, please do the right thing and be ashamed, not proud, to be a sponsor of the NFL.



An American

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