When the Brie Larsen blockbuster Captain Marvel rolled out in March 2019, the Air Force launched an all-out recruiting effort, hoping to capitalize on the story of female fighter pilot-turned-superhero Carol Danvers.
The Air Force placed pre-show ads in more than 3,600 theaters nationwide, bought space at geek hubs such as Fandom.com, and hosted its own press events with Larsen, as well as a red-carpet screening in Washington, D.C.
From at least one perspective, the Air Force effort to hitch its wagon to Captain Marvel’s star was an unreserved success.
An inspirational 30-second commercial titled “Origin Story,” timed to coincide with the film’s release, was the most popular piece of social media promotional content published by any service in 2019, Lt. Col Jacob Chisolm, deputy chief of strategic marketing at the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS), told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) during its December meeting.
Through paid media promotion, “Origin Story” received 173,000 visits, 11 million views of the video itself, and 200 million impressions overall, according to Air Force statistics.
But has the movie hype and messaging translated to recruiting numbers?
It may be too soon to tell. But the proportion of female applicants to the Air Force Academy’s class of 2023 will be the highest in the last five years — 31.2%, according to statistics reported by Military.com. By comparison, 913 men, or 73.5%, and 329 women, or 26.5%, made up the 2019 graduating class.