Maryland’s first line of defense is the brainchild of Lt. Col. Michael Bennett, former commander of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, to expand the Maryland Army National Guard’s brand across the state.
“How can we get our name known to the citizens of Maryland?” said Bennett.
Bennett, a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, worked out a partnership between the National Football League team and the Maryland Guard. The partnership began two years ago and was supported by the Maryland Guard’s senior leadership as well as the National Guard Bureau. The growth of this partnership has brought more than advertisements on the Ravens’ websites and exposure at several games.
“This year we came to them [the Ravens] with a much larger scope of a partnership, where we would be a true partner with the Ravens. We tied everything into the fact that the Ravens historically have a strong defense,” said Bennett. “So when you think of the Guard, you think of a “line of defense.” We’re that first line of defense. If there’s a natural disaster in Maryland, the governor can call us up in an emergency situation.”
John Harbaugh, Ravens head coach, and the NFL agreed to have the patch on the Ravens practice jerseys. The NFL policy does not allow corporate sponsorships on game jerseys.
“There are about 18 teams in the league that have any sort of patch on their practice jerseys,” said Bennett. “We’re [the Ravens] the only team in the NFL where the patch is not a corporate sponsor.”
The advertisements done by the Recruiting and Retention Battalion will display the connection with the Ravens, showing the line of defense theme. July 27 was the first practice with the new patch. This larger partnership starts from the training camp and goes through the pre-season and into the regular season.
“I’m a huge Ravens fan. I got tattoos, and I’m waiting to get another Super Bowl tattoo,” said Kevin Jones, an executive chef from Belcamp Md. “It makes me feel proud. It’s good to show support for our troops.”
Recruiting and Retention are working with the Ravens to put together a Military Appreciation Day at the training camp on Aug. 17 and during the Nov. 7 regular season game against the Miami Dolphins with a Veterans Day theme.
“More than anything, we want branding. We want that name recognition,” said Bennett. “The bigger expectation is that our brand gets known, that people see the Maryland Guard has value to the state and to the country. Ultimately, that leads to recruiting success down the road.”