Are Paintballers the Next US Soldiers?

By Ron Rosenberg

Camp Color WarDespite the efforts and interventions of some well intentioned parents, kids end up playing games that mimic combat situations: cops and robbers, "tag," or our own uniquely Bronx version, "ringalevio."

These games may have different names, rules, and formats, but they all involve teams competing against each other to control a territory.

As these children grow older and spend time at summer camp or after-school programs, they may be involved in more organized games like "color wars," "capture the white flag," or "camp Olympics." These progress into more technologically advanced and organized games. For instance, I can remember many birthday parties where we played laser tag to try and take out the opposing team.

As these same children grow older and turn into teenagers and young adults, the games may ratchet up a notch - instead of taking place in an enclosed facility, they move back outside. So instead of "laser guns" and special vests, the weapons become CO2-powered paintball guns.

paintballOf course, not all children end up playing paintball - some will get into more traditional sports like baseball, basketball, or gymnastics.

Others will pursue their musical or artistic talents.

Still, there will be a group of people for whom this type of "mock combat" will be their avocation of choice.

Why Do You Rob Banks?

There's an often-quoted story about the famous bank robber, Willie Sutton - when finally captured, he was asked, "Why do you rob banks?" And he famously answered, "Because that's where the money is!" Of course, this is nothing more than an urban legend of sorts, since there is no record of this conversation having actually taken place.

But it does make sense - I mean if you wanted to steal a large sum of money, you wouldn't go and rob a grocery store, would you?

So put yourself in the shoes of the different military services, trying to remain combat ready with an all-volunteer army. Where would you go to find potential recruits?

Well, how about places where people are actually paying money to engage in what amounts to an afternoon of war games? And that's why, a few years ago, the military started targeting paintballers in their recruiting efforts.

How About a Video Game?

Call of DutyLet's look at another angle. One of the most popular video games is the Call of Duty series, with 40 million monthly active players and over 1.6 billion hours of online game play.

This first-person role-playing game is extremely popular with teenagers and adults alike. In fact, a good friend of ours, a decorated veteran, likes to play this game - and, not surprisingly, he does very well at it!

So if you have a segment of the population that enjoys playing combat-based video games, it would seem like that might just be a good population to target for recruiting into the actual military.

If they like video games to begin with, why not use a video game as the recruiting tool? That's the story behind "America's Army" - a live-action video game produced by the US Army and distributed for free from their web site. This has been an extremely effective approach for them.

How Do You Reach Your Prospects?

It's not likely that your best prospects spend their free time playing paintball or video games. But they definitely have characteristics - demographic and "psycho-graphic," that would make it easy and cost effective to identify, locate, and (no pun intended) target them, getting an offer for your product or service where it needs to front of people who might actually be interested in what you have for them.

Where can you find your prospects? What do they read? Where do they spend their weekends? Who do they hang out with? Identify this, and you're well on your way to a successful marketing campaign!