News & Media


NASCAR, leagues ask Speaker to intervene on bill

July 17, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

NASCAR has joined with other major sports leagues in sending an open letter to the Speaker of the House in an attempt to table an amendment that would restrict branches of the military from using sports sponsorships as a recruitment tool.

In a letter sent Monday to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), NASCAR, the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the IndyCar Series urged the Speaker show "continued opposition" to the Kingston-McCollum amendment to the $608 billion 2013 Dept. of Defense appropriations bill currently before Congress. Introduced by Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the amendment would bar the military from using funds for sponsorships in professional or semi-pro sports.

A vote on the appropriations bill is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the weekly legislative calendar of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Related: Open letter from sports leagues to Congress

The military has a long history of sponsorship in NASCAR. The National Guard backs the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr., while the Air Force is an associate sponsor of the Aric Almirola's No. 43 at Richard Petty Motorsports. The Army has sponsored a car for the past decade, but recently announced it would not return next season as primary sponsor on Ryan Newman's vehicle, a move McCollum viewed as a triumph. The Navy and Marine Corps have sponsored cars in the past. Other sports also benefit from sponsorship from the military, which sees the expenditures as key recruiting tools.

"Sports marketing has long been an important element in the U.S. Armed Forces' efforts to reach young adults and active duty personnel regarding the military's mission and objectives that serve our country," the letter reads. "Today, while most Americans view military service as admirable, military recruiting is more challenging than ever as young adults are more difficult to reach through traditional media and local channels. Unfortunately, it is in this environment that the military's discretion to use sports marketing has come under attack in Congress."

The letter claims that in 2010 alone, Army sponsorship in NASCAR led to 46,000 qualified leads, while involvement in other sports "created numerous points of contact." McCollum -- who has tried and failed in the past to do away with military sponsorships -- has often disputed how many of those leads produce actual recruits, calling the expenditures a misuse of funds. In a statement issued last week, the National Guard Association of the United States defended the use of sports sponsorships.

"Recruiting for our all-volunteer force isn't what it used to be. Only one in every four young people is even eligible to join. And television advertising no longer carries the payoff it once did," said the association's president, retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr. "Today, you have to know how smart, fit young people think, where they live and play, and go to them. The Army National Guard learned these lessons a few years ago. Traditional recruiting approaches no longer worked and our troop strength was shrinking. So we abandoned convention and focused our limited resources on an innovative marketing mix that linked recruiting messages to popular musicians and motorsports. It was a bold move, but it paid off."

Monday's letter from major sports leagues requested that Boehner work to remove the Kingston-McCollum amendment from the appropriations bill. Copies were distributed to nine other members of the House, including Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), who has been a staunch opponent of the amendment.

"Given the success of the military's use of professional sports to reach out to the American people," the letter reads, "we encourage you to support the U.S. Armed Forces and enable them to continue to have the same access to media and venues as world leading businesses and nonprofits."