The Navy taps YouTube creators for its latest recruiting campaign

The U.S. Navy is turning to YouTube creators for help in finding technical recruits.

Captain Matt Boren, the chief marketing officer at U.S. Navy Recruiting Command, told me that while past recruiting efforts have focused on TV and other traditional media, that’s no longer the best route to reach the post-millennial generation.

“For our audience now, if they want to find something, they’re using the search engine on YouTube,” Boren said. “We had to be where our audience was.”

So the Navy worked with its agencies, VMLY&R and Wavemaker, along with Google, to identify YouTube creators with a focus on science, technology and math, then invited those creators to highlight different technical roles and environments. Specifically, Kevin Leiber (a.k.a. Vsauce2) filmed aboard a nuclear submarine, Jake Koehler (a.k.a. Dallmyd) worked with an explosives specialist and William Osman talked to a cybersecurity team.

“We gave the creators a great deal of free rein,” Boren added. “We didn’t want to come off as the Navy trying to buy their loyalty … We wanted to give them the opportunity to spend time in a work environment so they can understand and relate to them and really [convey] that to their audience.”

While the “Sailor VS” series (launching today) only involves three YouTube creators, Boren said he’s open to experimenting with more influencer marketing campaigns in the future, especially since those broader media-consumption trends aren’t going away.

And that’s all happening as the Navy is facing significant recruiting challenges — Boren estimated that it needs to fill 50,000 roles this year (though highly technical roles only make up a small percentage of that total).