Honoring Veterans Then and Now: Activision Blizzard and CODE
In 2017, Activision Blizzard had an unprecedented opportunity to leverage its IP in support of the Call of Duty Endowment and the veteran employment cause with the release of Call of Duty®: WWII—the latest game in the wildly popular Call of Duty video game franchise, with an audience of tens of millions of passionate players.
Call of Duty®: WWII is an immersive, historically-inspired experience. The game-makers made an enormous effort to respect the sacrifice and experiences of actual soldiers as a foundation of the game, which made it a perfect opportunity to shine a light on the work that the Call of Duty Endowment does to honor today’s veterans’ service in one of the most meaningful ways possible: placing vets in high-quality employment.
Activision Blizzard and the Endowment partnered to launch a multi-month campaign that honored those who served, then and now. By leveraging the excitement around the game and the unique connection to veterans and service, Activision Blizzard worked with the Endowment to not only raise money that would go directly towards putting vets in jobs, but also to raise awareness of the importance of supporting veterans.
The goals of this initiative extended beyond fundraising and awareness generation for the cause: Activision Blizzard also sought to differentiate itself in a crowded gaming landscape full of big 2017 releases, while also building larger brand equity and supporting employee engagement and recruitment efforts in a competitive field.
There were eight major elements of this campaign. First, the Race to Prestige (RTP), a 4-day/24 hour multiplayer stream on Twitch.tv that served as the official launch of the game. Five influencers with their millions-strong audiences played the much-anticipated game around-the-clock while soliciting donations for the Endowment and educating viewers about veteran unemployment. The event raised $125,000 for veterans and licensing partners also sponsored the race, raising additional funds.
Activision’s Sledgehammer Games studio also collaborated to create a digital item, the Bravery Pack, that could be purchased in-game and at retail partner stores, to benefit the Endowment, allowing players to personalize their avatar and show support for the cause. To date, it has raised more than $470,000 for the Endowment.
Working with Activision, the Endowment also crafted three campaigns with the actors featured in the game (e.g., Josh Duhamel): a social media series highlighting their personal connections to vets, tune-in videos promoting the marquee fundraising event, and a minute-long video deployed on Giving Tuesday.
The Endowment worked closely with two Pittsburgh Steelers who made cameos in the game, Alejandro Villanueva and Le’Veon Bell. Both wore custom Endowment cleats during a game as part of the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats campaign (with the cleats later auctioned to support the Endowment). This unprecedented exposure brought attention to the cause via the athletes’ social channels and live coverage on ESPN.
Activision Blizzard also leveraged important relationships with vendor partners, including Sony, Microsoft, GameStop and Costco, to secure support for the Endowment’s efforts that included exclusive items and player challenges.
Additionally, the company created and deployed a groundbreaking resource: the Veteran’s Guide to Activision Blizzard. This guide provides invaluable information to veterans considering careers in the interactive entertainment industry, helping them to prepare for and navigate both the hiring process and also potential subsequent employment.
Finally, and what you’ll soon hear about in greater detail, the full campaign introduced the Endowment and World War II history in compelling ways to entirely new audiences and donors, raising more than a million dollars for the Endowment – 100% of which went directly to helping vets find high quality jobs, ultimately funding 2,455 veterans jobs (equivalent to four battalions of veterans!). At the center of this was groundbreaking content that included three innovative documentaries for the gamer crowd that combined, had over 3 million views.
Ultimately, this cause partnership delivered revenue and value to vendors, encouraged sales and earned the company positive PR and community awareness and sentiment for their support of veterans’ employment. Even more importantly, a regiment sized group of veterans are now employed as direct result of this multi-faceted campaign.