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Splash & Go writes:
"Sound Retreat"
Posted by Uptight Motorsports Nerd on November 10, 2012
Viewed 172 times


Last summer, racing and politics intersected at sponsorships again. Congresspersons Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota 4th) and Jack Kingston (R-Georgia 1st) pushed for an amendment to the Department of Defense budget that would ban military sponsorship of motorsports. Naturally, I waited until Veterans Day to bring this up because I thought someone might be interested six months after everyone is done talking about it. In the spirit of doing something different, I'll talk about myself.

When I was in high school (almost an entire decade ago) there were many military recruiters hoping I would enlist with them, thus satisfying their quotas. Being enrolled in a vocational-technical school's automotive technology program, they attempted to seduce me with sports marketing via auto racing. The U.S. Army, while sponsoring Tony Schumacher, would invite students from my school to attend a presentation at Maple Grove Raceway on a Thursday before an NHRA weekend. It is similar to sitting through a timeshare presentation; except the weekend in paradise gets replaced with amateur drag racers and the colorful locals are brandishing Russian made assault rifles.

The first flaw in this program is that major racing series tend to visit the same tracks every year; therefore, the DoD is marketing to the same audience every year. I sat through that same presentation three years in a row, and sitting through it twice does not make anymore more likely to enlist than if they only attended it once. The goal should be reaching the greatest quantity of potential recruits, and handing out free swag to the same people ever year defeats that.

The second flaw is the cost of free swag. The Army was spending $27 million as a partial season sponsor for Ryan Newman, which is more than most full time sponsors will pay out. The extra money goes into souvenirs for attendees, and novelty experiences such as rock climbing walls and racing simulators. Unlike for-profit companies, the Army is selling employment in a field that can be both dangerous and politically unpopular; which is similar to oil and natural gas drillers, except soldiers get paid less.

Military sponsorships are not entirely futile. Reaching the target demographic is important, but it is more important to avoid investing in markets you have already saturated. Perhaps the Army would be better off without Ryan Newman.

On a related note, if you ever do have the opportunity to watch drag racing on a Thursday, you should definitely go for it. You will meet the nicest amateur racers and collect free samples from sponsors, while not spending a lot of money.

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