Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Program
Creating a voice and a platform for the military spouse community.
About The Program
More than a million men and women maintain the home front as military spouses while our service members defend our great nation. The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® program (AFI MSOY) recognizes military spouses’ important contributions and unwavering commitment to the military community and our country.
The program receives nominations from within the military community and from the American public, and it recognizes military spouses from all branches of service. Four phases of voting culminate in an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. each year. The event attracts Congress members, senior military officers, Department of Defense leadership and military spouses from all over the world.
The main goal of the program is to give thanks, create a network and provide a platform for military spouses. The second goal was to inform military spouses about the insurance opportunities available at AFI, who is the title sponsor for the events. Founded by military leaders, Armed Forces Insurance looks out for our nation’s military by supporting our military families and giving back to the community. An important aspect of the AFI MSOY program is to inform military families about this important resource. The Military Spouse team wove AFI’s branding and marketing efforts into every aspect of our events.
As lead art director for the program from 2012 through 2018, I was responsible for designing and running the social media voting campaigns, highlighting all the winners in cover and feature stories in Military Spouse (our monthly print magazine), environment design for each event location, directing all the photography needs, designing all event promo and marketing materials, finding vendors for detailed design fabrications, working with event sponsors, and collaborating with third party media for post-event coverage. This extensive program was a labor of love and a huge undertaking.
In the early years, AFI MOSY was held at smaller venues in the Washington, D.C. area, but it eventually gained traction. We’ve been fortunate to have the Joint Chiefs of Staff contribute to the awards process.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff cited us for creating a program that provided a network, voice and recognition for the hard work of military spouses across every division of the American military.
Throughout the years, the Obama and Trump administrations have both participated, and in 2018 we co-hosted the awards with the United Service Organizations (USO). Along with my other responsibilities, I assisted the USO with their environment design for the fundraising gala where we revealed our 2018 winner. National media outlets (including Fox & Friends, CNN, The View, Ellen and Oprah) have featured our team’s hard work, and celebrities – including Taya Kyle (wife of Chris Kyle from American Sniper), some of NASCAR’s top drivers, Terry Bradshaw, Gary Sinise, Kellie Pickler, The American Military Spouse Choir and many more – have contributed to these events.
Case Study ComponentsIdentity Rebranding, Social Media Voting Campaigns, Nomination and Sponsorship Videos, Print Collateral, Lifestyle Photography Photoshoots, Editorial Coverage, Environment Design, Media Coverage
Type of WorkAgency - Armed Forces Insurance, VIQTORY (Military Spouse)
TeamJoe Maiocco (Lead Art Director, Military Spouse, 2012-2018), Kariah Manwaring (Digital Marketing Manager, Military Spouse, 2013-2018), Janine Boldrin (Managing Editor, Military Spouse, 2018), Lain Harvey (AFI MSOY Program Manager, Military Spouse, 2018), Lindsay Bradford (MSOY Program Manager, Military Spouse, 2017), Laurie Cowin (Managing Editor, Military Spouse, 2017), Kate Dolack (Managing Editor, Military Spouse, 2014-2016), Melissa Rayworth (Managing Editor, Military Spouse, 2012-2013), Kyle Golik (IT Support, Military Spouse, 2018), Lori Simmons (Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President Affinity Relationships, Armed Forces Insurance, 2008 - Present), Emilee Releing (Marketing Manager, Armed Forces Insurance, 20012-2018), Melissa Miller (Marketing Manager, Armed Forces Insurance, 2019), Brian O'Malley (Gordon C. James Public Relations, 2014 - Present)
Identity Redesign – First Stage
Below are the original logos of the program. The wordmark ran from 2008 to 2011. The pink redesign was made (and only used) in 2012. This was the first year I started working for Military Spouse, and the identity was already in use prior to my involvement.
The challenge behind this identity is merging two brands into one (Armed Forces Insurance and Military Spouse). I decided to concentrate on the hierarchy of the overall shapes and type forms for both of the companies’ current logos. Being able to stack the identities in a natural way for your eye to process the verbiage while incorporating an oval shied to encompass the type. This version of the logo was used from 2013 to 2015.
A light floral background is used as a secondary branding mark. We used it to help establish a more elegant feeling that supports the event branding materials. You would also see this in editorial coverage, invites, website and program guides. We would change the color studies periodically to signify a new year.
1) This logo was used only in 2016. We changed the color to purple to introduce a gender-neutral color palette. Purple is also used in formal military event branding.
2) This logo was used only in 2017. We celebrated 10 years of the program!
3) This logo was used only in 2018. We brought back “Military Spouse Magazine” to showcase us as being the primary media outlet covering the event.
4) This is the current logo. Talk about a surprising twist! See my results at the end of this case study for more details for the reason for this change.
Social Media Campaign
To kick-off the start of the voting process I would create an entire social media voting campaign. Each graphic would inform the community about what stage we are at within the voting cycle while enticing them to perform a certain call to action. We relied heavily on heartfelt advertising which showcased that anyone could be nominated. All of the photos used were comprised from previous photoshoots I’ve directed for Military Spouse magazine. Over 50 graphics were created and resized for each respective social media platform. The top performing pieces would also be transformed into programmatic advertisements. See the images below for a small sample of ads.
Each year there were six finalists – one from each division of the Department of Defense (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard). And each of these finalists needed to participate in two photoshoots. The first was a casual, day-in-the-life shoot, and the second being a formal shoot to showcase their backgrounds and military affiliations. With limited time between the finalists being chosen and these photos being needed for production, it was no easy task to set up 12 photoshoots in one month and get permissions to shoot on high-security military bases, and then direct the families and the photographers. But much of the work we created really captured these finalists, and to this day I still see my work pop up as profile pictures, headshots used for event promotion, and used in third-party media. Directing these photoshoots was an honor and a privilege. Each photo shoot came with its own beautiful story that I’m proud to put a thumbprint on. See below for a small sample from the photoshoots.
Nomination and Sponsorship Videos
I worked closely with my in-house video specialist to create the storyboards, script development, and assit with editing for our yearly nominations and sponsorship videos. It was critical to showcase the history and impact of the award. We concentrated on showing third-party media reels, key influencers in the military spouse space, and tie in the support of Armed Forces Insurance.
2018 AFI MSOY Nominations Video
2017 AFI MSOY Sponsorship Video
The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® Nomination Kit is given to any spouse who was nominated during voting. It holds the entire history of the program, rules, eligibility and how voting was calculated. This grows every year and changes with the rise of the program.
I created custom illustrated badges to represent each Armed Forces Insurance Branch Spouses of the Year. Each badge pays tribute to each respected division of the Department of Defense. You will see these badges anytime the finalists are profiled in print, web, PR or event collateral.
Event Layout Design
Below is the event layout design for the 2018 ceremony. The event was held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel and we were a section of the USO’s annual fundraising gala. I collaborated with the USO on the event design. The theme was “A Special Salute to Military Spouses.” We hosted 800+ attendees, including celebrities and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Some of the Special Guests
1) The American Military Spouse Choir with Kellie Pickler
2) Terry Bradshaw, NFL Hall of Famer
3) NASCAR (Left to right): Kurt Bush, Michael Waltrip, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Mike Helton (Vice Chairman), Richard Petty
4) Elaine Rogers, President and CEO, USO-Metro
Armed Forces Insurance Branch Spouse Winners with Richard Petty, Terry Bradshaw, Mrs. Hollyanne Milley and Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.
See It All For Yourself!
Here are two short sample reels of the 2018 USO-Gala/AFI MSOY event.
If you would like to watch the entire cermony, visit Military Spouse for a four part video series. Part four contains the winner reveal!
2018 USO/AFI MSOY Event Recap
USO-Metro Celebrates Military Spouses at 36th Annual Awards Dinner
2018 USO-Metro/AFI MSOY Awards Dinner Highlights
This was the event layout design for the 2017 ceremony. We were fortunate enough to secure the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hall of Flags – a breathtaking space with an amazing floor layout.
Award Winner Medals
Each year I created a set of custom-fabricated antique brass medals for the six finalists. Working with a medal-crafting mint was a blast! The biggest challenge of this project was being able to ensure that all aspects of the engraving would appear crisp due to the complexity of the overall branding. Also, the planning process had to be carefully organized and prompt, due to needing a month of production time. Each branch winner gets a medal while the overall MSOY winner gets an additional medal that is bigger. Each medal comes in a velvet box and with a purple neck ribbon. The biggest challenge of this project was being able to ensure that all aspects of the engraving would appear crisp due to the complexity of the overall branding.
Here is a photo of the 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Branch Spouses of the Year with their custom-minted medals in front of a step-and-repeat I design for every event. There are normally two sets created, one for the stage and one located to the left of stage for immediate follow-up shots or in a common area for attendees to use (depending on venue stage layout).
Accompanying the 2017 Class:
Lt. Gen. Garry L. Parks, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Chairman (Ret.), Armed Forces Insurance
Lori Simmons, Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President Affinity Relationships, Armed Forces Insurance
Challenge Coins and Enamel Pins
The Challenge Coins are 2 inches wide, 3mm thick and made of brushed polished silver. These coins are handed out by military spouses and are given as a thank you gift to influnecers who’ve helped them. This helps increase the importance of the program with senior leaders within the military. The enamel pins are a standard 1-inch pin with a normal backing. Normally these are places on laynards or clothing to represent the program during other public events.
Program Guide & Social Reminders
The place setting for each attendee includes a program guide and a business card. The business card’s objective is to promote the proper social media channels and hashtags for each event. The program guides averaged around 56 pages each year and included profiles of the winners, the Armed Forces Insurance team and the Military Spouse team, as well as sponsor ads and profiles of the wives of the Joint Chief of Staff, who participated in voting and attend the event. This biggest challenge of the programs was ensuring that all the important key players were represented, and every sponsorship requirement was fulfilled.
Every ceremony kicks off with the presentation of colors, invocation and the national anthem. Pictured is the Armed Forces Color Guard. I always place the event logo on the podium for event photography and branding purposes.
It’s a tradition that we get a retractable vinyl banner made of each Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® (overall winner). These retract to be 80 x 30 inches and are placed in the entryways at the event to give attendees an initial showcase of the history of all the wonderful people who’ve benefited from the program.
Sponsor signage is placed throughout the event. I would alway work with event coordinators at each location to place these at high traffic areas. Three to six boards would be made every year and custom boards would be made by sponsors’ requests.
Award Winner Cover
The event ends with the winner of the event announced, and the unveiling of the cover I designed for “Military Spouse” magazine’s June issue. Every year we have a senior leader from Armed Forces Insurance and the highest ranking spouse (and sometimes senior leader) reveal the winner.
People from to right:
Ellyn Dunford, Spouse of Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Suzie Schwartz, President of Military Spouse Programs, Spouse of Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force
Krista Simpson Anderson, 2018 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Army Spouse
Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Chairman, Armed Forces Insurance
Here is an editorial feature of the 2018 winner – Krista Simpson Anderson.
For a sample of editorial coverage for an award winner, visit the June Issues of Miltiary Spouse.
Third Party Media
Every year the Military Spouse, Armed Forces Insurance and Gordon C. James Public Relations teams worked together to help showcase the incredible talents of the award winners across several media outlets. Here is a small sample of award winners and my magazine covers being featured.
2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse Navy Spouse of the Year, Brian Alvarado, on the Ellen show.
2016 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Natasha Harth, on Nancy Grace. This was the June Issue of Military Spouse I designed being featured (cover reveal design).
2012 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Jeremy Hilton, being interviewed on the View.
2018 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® Krista Simpson Anderson being interviewed on Fox News.
2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Lakesha Cole, on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda. Also featuring the 2014 Military Spouse magazine June Issue I designed (cover reveal).
Jeremy Hilton being profiled on AOL news.
2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Holly Vega, being featured on Fox News. Pictured are Armed Forces Insurance senior leadership with Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the winner reveal.
2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, Holly Vega, on CNN. This was the June issue Military Spouse magazine being showcased.
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