BREAKING NEWS: National Guard Announces Departure From NASCAR and IndyCar

RaceChaser Staff Featured, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Va. – official release — HHP/Rusty Jarrett photo — After undergoing an intensive internal review, the Army National Guard is set to make changes to its sports sponsorship approach to recruitment marketing, including an end to its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and second-generation INDYCAR driver Graham Rahal, the Guard announced on Wednesday.

The military branch has sponsored Earnhardt since 2008 and picked up sponsorship of Rahal at the beginning of this year. Its motorsports sponsorships date back more than a decade.

“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business,” said Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard.

The Guard’s budget for racing sponsorship exceeded $40 million this year — spending $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship for 2014. Future programs will rely on much smaller budgets.

While sports sponsorships have played an important role in helping the Guard build strong brand awareness, existing Army National Guard sponsorship contracts with NASCAR and INDYCAR are set to expire at the end of the current season.

“We believe industry and open competition can help us identify effective and efficient solutions to help us meet our marketing and recruiting objectives within budget constraints,” Lyons said.

Motorsports sponsorships served as a way to build greater awareness of the Army Guard as a whole.

“As part of a broad recruitment marketing strategy, motorsports partnerships—including NASCAR—played an important role in helping the National Guard build strong brand awareness and in turn helped us achieve extraordinary recruiting and end-strength objectives over the past decade,” said Lt. Col. Christian Johnson, who heads Army Guard marketing.

“Our NASCAR sponsorship was principally a marketing program, intended primarily to build awareness of the National Guard as a career option” said Johnson. “The NASCAR sponsorship allowed the National Guard to leverage a 77 million person fan base and the sport’s most popular driver.”

With the announcement, Earnhardt, a fan favorite, NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver and one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers this season with three wins, now has a major opening for sponsorship. The announcement comes just three days after Earnhardt scored his third victory of the season at Pocono Raceway.

Nationwide Insurance signed on as Earnhardt’s primary sponsor for 12 races in 2015 and 13 in 2016-17, and PepsiCo will return for an additional number of races under its Diet Mountain Dew brand.

Motorsports sponsorships are not the only programs to be impacted by decreasing budgets. Since 2012, the Army Guard has reduced sports sponsorships from six—including professional fishing and motorcycle racing—to just the NASCAR and IndyCar sponsorships. In fiscal year 2015, the Army Guard’s marketing budget is expected to be about half of what it was just three years ago in fiscal year 2012.

And as the Army Guard shifts its marketing strategy, one of the key elements behind those changes is maintaining fiscal responsibility.

“We share a common commitment to the American people to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Lyons said. “We will continue to assess and refine our programs to ensure we get the best return on investment.”

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