Call of Duty and Warzone 2 would have been used to help advertise the US Army, though sponsorships for the FPS games were cancelled following the emergence of various lawsuits relating to sexual harassment at Activison Blizzard, reports claim, based on internal Army documentation.
The US Army allegedly planned to allocate sponsorships for a range of Call of Duty and Warzone 2-related esports and streaming events, with individual Twitch streamers, the Halo television series, and Call of Duty mobile games also identified as potential platforms for helping the Army to reach targeted audiences. A report from Motherboard, based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, claims the US Army wanted to increase its advertising among Hispanic, Black, female, and Gen-Z demographics, and allotted millions of dollars across a range of proposed sponsorship deals.
The documents reportedly show that the US Army planned to spend $1 million USD sponsoring the Twitch esports league Historically Black Colleges and Universities Showdown. $150,000 USD was designated to be spent on sponsoring Call of Duty streamer Stonemountain64, with other CoD and Warzone 2 streamers Zagg and Alex Zedra, who provided the likeness for the character Mara in Modern Warfare 2019, also targeted for sponsorship deals.
The objective of these sponsorship deals was to encourage partners to showcase “the wide range of skill sets offered by the Army,” and “familiarise their fans with Army values and opportunities.” $300,000 USD was allocated to be spent on sponsoring professional Call of Duty esports team OpTic Gaming, which the Army reportedly hoped would help “familiarise OpTic fans on Army values and opportunities.”
The US Army also reportedly planned to sponsor the esports competition Call of Duty League (CDL) and the television series adaptation of Halo. There were also plans to offer players of Call of Duty Mobile in-game currency in exchange for watching Army-related advertisements. A $600,000 USD sponsorship was allegedly planned for website IGN, with a further $675,000 USD allocated for sponsorship deals with wrestling promotion WWE.
However, an August 2021 email, reportedly contained within the same internal Army documents, suggests that many of these plans were scrapped after a range of lawsuits emerged alleging sexual harassment by some employees at Call of Duty publisher Activision. In response, the US Army also planned to withdraw its own esports team from upcoming events.
“At this time, we intend to ‘pause all activities’ immediately with Activision due to serious allegations of sexual harassment at their workplace, and also recommended that the Marketing Engagement Brigade not send their esports team to the tournament,” the 2021 email reportedly explains.
In a statement to Motherboard, Twitch Ads, which oversees advertising and sponsorship across the Twitch streaming platform, says it did not receive any sponsorship funds from the US Army connected to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities league. A US Army spokesperson also issued a statement:
“Army Marketing’s goal for sponsorship is similar to all our advertising purchases which is to reach a specific market in support of Army recruiting. Ad recall and favorability are important as they are both industry accepted measures of effectiveness of the advertising and sponsorships we purchase. In Army marketing, we must meet the youth where they are and that is online.”