National Guard

Congress cuts ad budget for National Guard’s racing sponsorships

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A little more than four months after the National Guard announced the end of its motorsports sponsorships, Congress has cut the Guard’s advertising budget by $13.8 million.

A Guard spokesman, Maj. Earl Brown, confirmed to USA Today that the $13.8 million was the same amount that his service had requested to sponsor race cars.

In recent years, the Guard has been arguably one of the most prominent sponsors in American racing – largely due to its association with NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Hendrick Motorsports team.

This year, the Guard spent $32 million to back Earnhardt and Hendrick, plus an additional $12 million on an IndyCar sponsorship with Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

But the sponsorships came under fire this season for their apparent failure to sign up new recruits for the military service. A previous USA Today report from February said that the Guard spent more than $26 million on the NASCAR program in 2012, but out of more than 25,000 prospects that the Guard received through it, only 20 of them met entry qualifications and none of them ultimately joined.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who counts herself as a NASCAR fan but criticized the sponsorships’ value during a Senate subcommittee hearing in May, said in a statement that she hoped the Guard would look at less costly ways to get better results in recruiting.

“Aggressive recruiting is key to maintaining the strength of our military, but Congress has a responsibility to ensure that every taxpayer dollar spent produces measurable results, especially in an environment of diminishing recruiting budgets,” she said.

“For too long the Army National Guard maintained sports sponsorships that failed to reach target recruiting demographics and provided less value per dollar than other forms of marketing — so it’s my hope the Guard will be encouraged to take a hard look at better, more cost effective ways to get the right return on their investment.”

The Guard recently completed its seventh season of sponsoring Earnhardt in NASCAR. Its IndyCar sponsorship shifted from the now-defunct Panther Racing to the Rahal camp just this past year.