Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving the number 88 National Guard Chevy, and Mark Martin, in the number eight Army car, battle for position on the front stretch of Texas Motor Speedway. (Lt. Col. William D. Thurmond/Army)
The Army National Guard is ending its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Indy Racing League driver Graham Rahal, the component announced Wednesday.
The decisions follow an “intensive internal review,” according to the announcement.
“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 Lyons, acting director of the Army Guard, in the announcement.
The Army Guard spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on the IndyCar sponsorship for 2014, according to the announcement.
The Army Guard came under fire earlier this year for spending $26.2 million to sponsor NASCAR racing in 2012 to boost its marketing and recruiting but failing to sign up a single new soldier through the program, according to a USA Today report.
At the time, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., assailed the Guard for “wasting a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship,” the newspaper reported.
According to USA Today, the Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012. The potential recruits indicated that the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining, USA Today reported. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard’s entry qualifications, and not one of them joined, according to the newspaper.
Sports sponsorships have played “an important role” in helping the Army Guard build strong brand awareness, but existing contracts are set to expire at the end of the current season, Lyons said in the announcement.
Despite reduced budgets, the Army Guard must continue to recruit new people, the component said.
The Army Guard’s recruiting goal is the “second largest” in the Department of Defense, second only to the active Army, Lyons said in the announcement.
“To make best use of limited marketing dollars, future programs will have to sustain the Army National Guard brand with the American public and also generate quality leads that will fill our ranks with the best soldiers that America has to offer,” he said.
The Army Guard’s fiscal 2015 marketing budget is expected to be about half of what it was three years ago.
“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.