SBD/July 18, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sports Leagues Fight Conservative Lawmakers To Maintain Military Sponsorship Spending

National Guard currently serves as sponsor for Izod IndyCar Series' J.R. Hildebrand
In a letter Monday sent to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and “other top House leaders, NASCAR was joined” by the NFL, MLB, NBA and Izod IndyCar Series in “begging for lawmakers to keep money flowing” from military sponsorships, according to Stephen Dinan of the WASHINGTON TIMES. The leagues said that sports sponsorships “are the ‘most efficient tool’ in the military’s entire arsenal for reaching potential recruits.” NASCAR and other sports leagues are “feverishly fighting this week to try to defend that spending in the face of a conservative-liberal coalition that says it’s time for the government to stop pumping taxpayers’ money into private sports teams -- at least without more evidence that it pays off.” U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), whose support this year “helped breathe life into the defunding effort,” said, “We’re just trying to say, ‘Look, if you put your name on somebody’s car, show me the numbers.’ I think as a conservative, we’ve got to measure our friends in the military with the same yardstick we measure a social program.” Dinan notes the military spent between $80-100M “in each of the past two years on sports sponsorships, including mixed martial arts and fishing.” But with motorsports teams “getting the biggest chunks of that money, NASCAR has become the chief public target.” The “first blow was dealt this year” when Kingston and fellow U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) tried to strip military funding “and won in the House Appropriations Committee.” The Army recently cut ties with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Stewart-Haas Racing.The two remaining NASCAR entities under scrutiny are the National Guard’s sponsorship of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series and a deal between the Air Force and the No. 43 car driven by Aric Almirola in the Nationwide Series (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/18).

WELCOME TO CORPORATE AMERICA: Speed’s Tommy Kendall said of the future of military sponsorships in NASCAR, “This is not really a lot different than what goes on inside different companies. ... When you get new people, one person loves it, another person doesn’t.” Kendall: “It’s a charged subject and depending whether you’re a NASCAR fan or not is probably which side you land on.” Speed’s Dave Despain said, “The marketing budget (for the military) is not going to be reduced. They still have to have recruits, they’re just going to go spend it somewhere else” (“Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain,” Speed, 7/15).
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