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Congress (Again) Ponders Military Sports Sponsorship Ban


JR Hildebrand at the Indianapolis 500 - Anne Proffit photo

JR Hildebrand at the Indianapolis 500 - Anne Proffit photo

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The United States Army and the National Guard, in the eyes of the Pentagon, are brands that requires ongoing promotion to raise public interest and awareness. One of the most cost-effective ways of doing this, in terms of media exposure and number of eyes-on, is via sponsorship of professional sports like auto racing.

In fact, the National Guard sponsors both Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR effort and J.R Hildebrand’s IndyCar ride, ensuring that fans of both series remain aware of the brands represented by the National Guard and to a lesser degree, the U.S. Army.

How much the National Guard spends to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the subject of some debate, but Congresswoman Betty McCollum insists the amount will total $26.54 million in 2012. If her name sounds familiar, it should: the Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota has previously sponsored two bills to ban sports sponsorship by the military.

According to Inside Line, McCollum is at it again, this time via an amendment to a bill that would set the budget for the Department of Defense. Under her proposal, sponsorship of any professional or semiprofessional sports would be banned, presumably freeing funding for more relevant projects.

A statement on the Congresswoman’s website reads, “At a time when Congress is increasing defense spending by cutting ‘Meals on Wheel’ for vulnerable seniors and nutrition programs for hungry children, it’s time to eliminate wasteful Pentagon spending on NASCAR, fishing and ultimate fighting sponsorships that have nothing to do with our national security.”

It’s not a partisan thing, either, since the amendment is co-sponsored by Senator Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia.

We’re not sure what the right answer is. On the one hand, motorsports does get your logo in front of more eyes than anything else we can think of, but that’s not necessarily enough to ensure sales (or in this case, recruits). The Pentagon believes the money spent is cost-effective, although it really can’t translate it into tangible results.

We’re way too cynical to believe that any money saved would be returned to the programs cited by McCollum, so the net result would likely be business as usual. Programs for seniors and children would remain under-funded, while NASCAR and IndyCar teams would have to cast a wider net for sponsorship.

If that makes anything better, we’re not seeing it.
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