Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
UPDATE #1 – There is a hearing today to discuss the National Guard’s marketing spending. There will be more information to come once the results of the hearing are made public.
UPDATE #2 – The result of the senate hearing on Thursday is that the National Guard is going to reevaluate their relationship with NASCAR beginning with the 2015 season. The National Guard does their marketing deals on a year to year basis and the NASCAR and Indycar deals are slated to be reviewed sometime next month. During the hour long hearing the National Guard came under fire from multiple people due to the fact that their own data states that the NASCAR sponsorship has had little to no impact on recruiting.
The United States National Guard is currently one of the primary sponsors for the No. 88 machine which of course is driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr.of Hendrick Motorsports. Like most sponsors in NASCAR, the National Guard chooses to be a sponsor to get their name out there. Whether getting your name out there means people buy more of your product, find out about your brand or sign up for your services; there is usually a benefit that comes along with being a NASCAR sponsor.
According to a recent report from USA Today, the National Guard sponsorship in NASCAR simply isn’t adding up.
The National Guard isn’t trying to sell food or get people to buy alcohol. The National Guard is obviously in the business of signing up recruits to join them. Sponsoring Earnhardt, arguably the most popular driver in the sport and being the only branch of the United States military to be in NASCAR; one would think that this would translate into new recruits. Not only is the sponsorship not translating into recruits but it would seem that it isn’t doing much of anything besides wasting money.
In 2012 the National Guard spent $26.5 million on NASCAR sponsorship, which according to data obtained by USA Today led to no new recruits being signed up that year. The same reports show that the National Guard has spent close to $88 million between 2011-2013. During that time span there is little proof to show that the sponsorship attributed to any soldiers joining the National Guard. The National Guard refused to discuss these figures with USA Today.
The National Guard has come under fire recently for their sponsorship of NASCAR and IndyCar. Aside from the money spent in NASCAR, they have spent $38 million in IndyCar over the same period of time from 2011-2013. The National Guard is currently the only branch of the United States military involved in NASCAR, the other branches have pulled out in previous years citing that the cost was too much and didn’t make sense financially.
Rick Breitenfeldt, a National Guard spokesman claims that nearly 90 percent of those who enlisted or re-enlisted from 2007-2013 indicated that they were exposed to the Guard or received information on it via NASCAR connections. Other numbers out there seem to contradict the figure that Breitenfeldt claims to be true. According to 2012 findings, the NASCAR program provided the National Guard with just under 25,000 recruit prospects. In all of those cases the men and woman stated that NASCAR was the reason they were seeking more information on the Guard. Of those near 25,000 people, only 20 of them qualified for entry into service and of those 20 none of them actually enlisted. In 2013 the number of prospects fell to around 7,500.
Although the enlistment numbers do not seem to be there, one would have to imagine that the National Guard is getting something out of this deal. It would seem inconceivable to me that they would continue to spend millions of dollars each year if the relationship with NASCAR wasn’t providing them with some sort of benefit. In the coming weeks and months the National Guard might have to spell out what that benefit is as many members of congress are calling for them to end their sports sponsorships.