Taxpayers Hit the Wall: Army National Guard Drops Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sponsorship

A good general knows when to cut his losses. 

The Army National Guard has dropped its sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after spending tens of millions of dollars with next to nothing to show for the expenditure by way of new recruits. 

“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business,” Major General Judd Lyons explained in a news release this week. The Army National Guard notes that it spent $32 million this year on NASCAR and $12 million on IndyCar sponsorships. Lyons asserts, “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."

In addition to recognizing the cost inefficiency of the sponsorship, dropping Earnhardt and IndyCar driver Graham Rahal meshes with the military body's decreased reliance on sports sponsorships in recent years. "Motorsports sponsorships are not the only programs to be impacted by decreasing budgets," the Army National Guard's release reads. "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."

The Army, Navy, and Marines have dropped NASCAR sponsorship deals in recent years as well. NASCAR's viewership seems to overlap with the dominant military demographic (young, male), but seeing an emblem on a car just didn't translate into fans walking into a recruiter's office and joining the armed forces. After spending more than a hundred million dollars propping up the profits of auto racing circuits during the last four years, the Army National Guard has painfully learned this lesson. 

USA Today revealed in May that the Guard had spent $88 million on NASCAR from 2011 through 2013 with not a single new recruit to show for it in 2012.

"The Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012, documents show," USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook reported. "In those cases, potential recruits indicated the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard's qualifications for entry into the service, and not one of them joined."


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