This year marks the debut of the Grunt Style Air Show Majors, with SUN ’n FUN kicking off the year-long tour.
The majors is sponsored by Grunt Style, a company that manufactures and sells clothes that evoke the “American fighting spirit.” As the company explains on its website: “With nearly 500 veterans and patriots, our mission is to deliver the highest quality, most patriotic apparel on the planet, straight to your front door.”
So it seemed only natural for the company to team up with Red Frog Events to create the Air Show Majors Tour. Other airshows on this year’s tour are the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in New York, the Cleveland National Air Show in Cleveland, Ohio, and the CAF Wings Over Houston Airshow in Houston, Texas.
The mission of the Grunt Style Air Show Majors is to “celebrate aviation, honor the military, and advance the air show industry through increased mainstream awareness.”
According to Mike Birt, Grunt Style’s CMO, when Red Frog Events approached the company about sponsoring airshows, he was all in.
“I am a huge fan of aviation and airshows,” he said, noting he attends as many as he can with his son.
He acknowledges that attending airshows can be a “hit or miss” proposition. That’s one reason Grunt Style is putting its efforts behind these four airshows this year — and more next year — to let people know what to expect when they attend an airshow in the Grunt Style Air Show Majors.
“We want to create a series of airshows for people where there’s an expectation that this is going to be a great event, and it’s going to be well attended by very diverse and interesting aircraft that they’ll get to see,” he explains. “It’s all about the fans. We want to create an awesome experience.”
But dig a little deeper and you’ll see there’s more to Grunt Style’s sponsorship.
The company was founded by an Army drill sergeant and more than 50% of its employees are veterans. And company officials see the problems that military aviation, as well as civilian aviation, is having with pilot and mechanic shortages.
“We need to fill these shortages. It is critical,” he says. “If you listen to the Air Force and the Navy, in the next few years it’s actually going to be a strategic issue that’s going to cause readiness problems for us, so we’re concerned from the military side that our Air Force and Navy are going to really have an issue, so that worries us. And then on the civilian aviation side, we’re worried about the pilot and mechanic shortage there too. Can we keep up aircraft operations the way we are right now? Nobody sees flights getting canceled right now and if you want to fly somewhere you can. It’s not going to be that way if we don’t do something about our pilot shortage today.”
As a company with a young customer base, Grunt Style wants to help get youth interested in these career fields, he continues.
“We want to help. We want the kids to get as excited about this as I was when I was a kid on my first aircraft. Hopefully, we can educate people about the career opportunities and what an outstanding career field it is to go into.”
That’s what makes Grunt Style and SUN ’n FUN such a good fit. The first time Grunt Style officials visited the SUN ’n FUN campus, they were able to meet some of the kids who attend Central Florida Aerospace Academy.
“We were blown away by what they do and the professionalism and the courtesy exhibited by those young people and their excitement and love for aviation already,” he says. “That really hit home for us.”
It also helps that the Florida market is a great one for the company.
“There’s a lot of military in Florida so when our name is attached to something there, it’s going to help,” he says. “We have a lot of fans down there. And if they see Grunt Style is working with an airshow, then our fans will come to the airshow and get as excited as we are.”
Another key factor in the company’s support of airshows is that they are great family events.
“You can bring multi-generations to this event and that’s what we want to keep growing,” he says. “We have to look at the future and if we don’t have the younger generations — if it’s just us old guys who have always loved aviation — that’s not the future. We need to get the younger generations involved in this.”