By Master Sgt. Chance Babin, Air Force Reserve Recruiting Service
/ Published March 25, 2019
Jarron Cumberland, the Amierican Athletic Conference tournament Most Outstandiing Player for the Cincinnati Bearcats, passes to the open shooter in the final game of the Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament March 17 at the FedEx Center in Memphis. Cincinnati defeated Houston 69-57 for its second consecutive AAC tournament championship. Air Force Reserve advertising was seen throughout the arena and live on ESPN and CBS. (Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)
Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service made a giant marketing splash leading up to one of the biggest and most watched sporting events in the country. AFRC Recruiting Service took advantage of March Madness’s popularity by being the title sponsor for three different conference basketball tournaments that led up to selection Sunday.
For anyone tuning into CBS or any of the ESPN family of channels March 13-17, it would have been difficult not to see the Air Force Reserve logo – on the court, digitally displayed at an arena or scrolling by on the score ticker at the bottom of their screen.
AFRC was the title sponsor for the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mountain West basketball tournaments, located in Memphis, Frisco, Texas, and Las Vegas, respectively. The diverse locations and the fact that these tournaments featured teams from across the United States – from California to Florida to Connecticut, helped AFRC recruit throughout the country.
“By going with three athletic conferences, the Air Force Reserve was able to geographically create a national footprint that aligned with our recruiting missions,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, chief of strategic advertising. “The benefit for us was great visibility in areas where we needed to generate awareness and leads for the recruiters.”
The conference sponsorships provided a long-term opportunity for AFRC Recruiting Service to get its message out at the participating schools and surrounding areas.
“The basketball championships broadcast on CBS and ESPN across the country gave us exposure to millions of viewers, and for the week of the tournaments it really did become a media blitz that gave us tremendous exposure,” Johnson said.
In the AAC tournament final in Memphis, the Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the top-seeded Houston Cougars, 69-57.
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin talked about having the Air Force Reserve as the title sponsor.
“First of all, anybody who has ever served in any of our armed forces and put their life on the line for our country, thank you,” he said. “To have Air Force Reserve involved in our tournament makes it 10 times more important. There’s nothing more important than taking care of the people who take care of us. That starts with everybody in our armed forces. We appreciate the Air Force Reserve being a major sponsor of our conference tournament.”
The coach talked about some of the commonalities between sports and the military.
“We talk about things like toughness, togetherness and commitment; but there is nothing more important than togetherness, toughness and commitment when serving your country and protecting another man’s life. We talk about those things, but you guys in the Air Force Reserve and the military live those things for us.”
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said having the Air Force Reserve as the title sponsor is a good fit.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on our name, the American,” Aresco said. “With the Air Force Reserve, we’re really proud to have people who serve our country representing us. It’s that simple. We love the military and we love what they do for our country. We appreciate you supporting our league. We couldn’t be any more pleased to have you as a sponsor.”
The Conference USA tournament, held in Frisco, Texas, featured both the men’s and women’s tournaments being played at the same time on different courts.
“It was a great experience working the Conference USA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and having the opportunity to spread awareness to the fans, the people working at the arena and the young, talented men and women athletes,” said Master Sgt. Jacinto Nunez, AFRC RS noncommissioned officer in charge of advertising.
“We are here promoting that we’re hiring men and women into the Air Force Reserve. Having both tournaments take place at the same time allowed us to have a diverse crowd and spread the word about the benefits of joining the Reserve.”
AFRC’s relationship with the three conferences spread further than the basketball tournaments.
“Our partnership with the conferences was across all of their sports,” Johnson said. “And while we were the title sponsor of the basketball championships, we also had positioning with softball, volleyball, track and field, baseball, swimming and a number of other sports. It is very important to the Air Force Reserve that we let everyone know about the great opportunities we have. Diversity is important to us when we are looking at places to tell our story.”
For more information on joining the Air Force Reserve, go to AFReserve.com or call 800-257-1212.