Dale Earnhardt Jr., Graham Rahal Losing National Guard Sponsorship
The National Guard announced on Wednesday that it would be pulling its sponsorship of NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. and IndyCar Racing League’s Graham Rahal.
National Guard Ending Car Racing Sponsorships
The National Guard announced its decision on its website, claiming that the Guard’s current contracts with Earnhardt and Rahal’s cars expire at the end of the current racing season. "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 H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard in the press release.
In total, the Army National Guard spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship with Earnhardt and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship with Rahal. The costly marketing effort earned derision from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), earlier this year in a hearing. At the time, she said that the Guard was "wasting a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship,” according to USA Today.
Though no numbers are provided to speak to the success of the costly sponsorship deals, the Guard maintains that teaming up with NASCAR was a successful marketing strategy, bringing awareness of the program to a vast audience.
"Our NASCAR sponsorship was principally a marketing program, intended primarily to build awareness of the National Guard as a career option," said Army Guard marketing chief Lt. Col. Christian Johnson. "The NASCAR sponsorship allowed the National Guard to leverage a 77 million fan base and the sport's most popular driver."
Hendricks Motorsports, Graham Rahal React
Upon learning of the National Guard’s decision to discontinue their sponsorship, both Hendricks Motorsports (Earnhardt’s team) and Rahal expressed their surprise.
Hendricks said the team "has a contract in place to continue the National Guard program at its current level in 2015,” adding, “We have not been approached by the Guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement."
In a statement, Rahal said, "We were informed this afternoon that the National Guard will end all sponsorship of motorsports, including both IndyCar and NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2014 seasons. This is obviously very disappointing news to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing given the significant incremental brand exposure we have worked to produce for the National Guard in our first season together, including various off-track marketing and advertising programs focused on supporting the mission set forth."