One day after the announcement that the U.S. Army was ending a NASCAR sponsorship deal that cost $8.4 million dollars, the Minnesota Congresswoman who tried unsuccessfully to end all military sports sponsorship is going after the money backing one of the highest-profile drivers in all of racing.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., lauded Tuesday's announcement that the Army would end a 10-year run of sponsoring NASCAR.
"This program was not effective," McCollum told USA Today. "By eliminating a wasteful program, they're protecting taxpayer dollars and they can refocus those dollars on recruiting efforts that bring in well-qualified recruits to keep our Army strong. The Army now joins the Navy and the Marine Corps in pulling out of NASCAR. Now I'd like to see, as they haven't been able to show us any numbers that any of these sports sponsorships work, that we bring an end to the sports sponsorships."
After felling the above-mentioned sponsor deals, McCollum is reportedly now going after the National Guard deal that sponsors Dale Earnhardt Jr. A meeting, reportedly requested of McCollum by the National Guard, has been scheduled for this week. The National Guard has budgeted $26.5 million for its NASCAR program in 2012, although that number does not solely reflect just the money paid to Hendrick Motorsports. That budget also includes display space at NASCAR tracks for the program, as well as travel costs for a fleet of show cars that make appearances everywhere from auto shows to county fairs.
The National Guard has already slashed its overall marketing budget for next year, cutting an overall budget of $54.5 million down to $24.5 million. The National Guard sports sponsorships also include a multimillion-dollar deal with Panther Racing in the IZOD Indy Car Series as well as sponsorships of action sports athletes and fishermen in the FLW Fishing Tour.
The Army reported to Motorsport.com yesterday that it intends to continue sponsoring Tony Schumacher's NHRA drag-racing team and reported to USA Today that it would continue its title sponsorship of the All-American Bowl – which is a postseason all-star high-school football event that is televised on national television.
Army National Guard Director, Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr., defended its sports sponsorships in a May 23 hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.
"It's really a matter of branding and being associated with a national brand," Ingram said at the hearing. "We do get recruits and we do run recruiting booths at sporting events. The Army National Guard, because of the target audience we're looking at for, that is an interest to those people. When they watch sports on television and they see Army National Guard, it's a national branding opportunity that is a great value."