National Guard’s NASCAR Deal Heads to Congress

Dale Earnhardt Jr, National Guard sponsored car is seen here winning the Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr, National Guard sponsored car is seen here winning the Daytona 500

The National Guard spent $26.5 million to sponsor NASCAR racing in 2012 to bolster its marketing and recruitment but failed to sign up a single new soldier to its ranks, according to data provided to USA Today.

Even though the Guard spent $88 million as a NASCAR sponsor from 2011 to 2013, it is unclear how many new recruits, if any, signed up because of it, according to documents. The Guard on Wednesday would not confirm the figures on prospects and recruits developed through its NASCAR sponsorship.

 Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who will hold a hearing on the recruitment program Thursday, assailed the Guard for “wasting a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship.”

 The Guard received 24,800 recruiting prospects from the program in 2012, documents show. In those cases, potential recruits indicated the NASCAR affiliation prompted them to seek more information about joining. Of that group, only 20 met the Guard’s qualifications for entry into the service, and not one of them joined.

 In 2013, the number of prospects associated with NASCAR dropped to 7,500, according to briefing materials for the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight led by McCaskill. The National Guard needs 1 million leads to meet its annual recruiting goal of 50,000 soldiers.

The NASCAR initiative, along with the $38 million spent on an IndyCar racing sponsorship, over the same period, will be the target of the hearing led by McCaskill.

The contract entitles the Guard to plaster its logo on the team’s car for 20 races, set up mobile recruiting displays at tracks and conduct the NASCAR-affiliated “Race-2-Achieve” recruiting effort in high schools, according to briefing materials for senators.

In NASCAR’s defense they draws sponsorships from major corporations because they value the return on their investment, said David Higdon, NASCAR’s spokesman. Coca-Cola, Sprint and Toyota, he said in an email, “are in NASCAR for one reason: Because it works.”

Earnhardt’s win at the Daytona 500, for example, generated the equivalent of millions of dollars in advertising for the Guard, according to marketing research.