Could military sponsorship in NASCAR be in trouble?
If Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga and Betty McCollumn, D-Minn. have anything to say about it then yes.
Last Thursday, an amendment was adopted in the United States House Appropriations Committee that would prohibit the Department of Defense from spending money on sports sponsorships. This could be a huge problem for NASCAR, of the $135 million that is spent on sports, $80 million goes into NASCAR. Last year, McCollumn introduced similar legislation but it didn’t get any support. Now with Kingston on board, it could go all the way.
When introducing the legislation, Kingston and McCollum cited a need to trim the budget, a smaller military force will not need as many recruits, and the lack of proof from the Department of Defense that such programs are cost-effective in bringing in new recruits. NASCAR took a stand and cited a fall 2011 student by the Experian Consumer Research that states NASCAR fans are twice as likely as non fans to serve in the military, it also found that 37% of active service members and veterans are indeed NASCAR fans.
The fight is far from over. The amendment has yet to be voted on.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 5, 2012. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Currently, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman are sponsored for part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season by the military. Earnhardt has 18 races with the National, Guard onboard, while Newman is sponsored by the U.S. Army for 12 races. The U.S. Army has also been in NASCAR for 18 years, just not on the hood of a car but in recruitment and other advertising. Both drivers also make appearances to help boost recruitment. It has been estimated that NASCAR has bought in over 50,000 potential new recruits.
On Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt was asked his opinion on the bill. He had heard that Kingston had never been to a NASCAR race and even invited him to attend one, he also urged all who are voting on this to study up on the issue.
“I would encourage them to do more homework, get more facts, understand the situation a little more,” Earnhardt said. “I know just talking to the (National) Guard … they can’t express to me enough about how much this program helps their recruiting. They are committed to the belief it has a profound effect on their recruiting and their ability to recruit.”
If this bill were to get passed, NASCAR would definitely miss the funding from the military while the military would miss advertising to one of their key demographics. I do not want to see NASCAR lose another major sponsor. Team already have enough trouble getting sponsors on board. However, I don’t see NASCAR’s most popular driver having trouble landing a new sponsor, if the bill were to pass.
Heck, who knows, maybe Kingston will attend a race and see that NASCAR and the United States Armed Forces go hand in hand.