U.S. Congress Launches another Misguided Attack on Sponsorship

By Jim Andrews May 18, 2012

For the second year in a row, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D.-Minn.) has added an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would prohibit the U.S. armed forces from spending any money to sponsor sports. The entire bill, including the amendment, was approved by the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, as reported in USA Today.

McCollum and her new cosponsor this year, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)—who was chosen specifically because his district is in the heart of NASCAR country—contend that money spent on sponsoring motorsports, wrestling, college football and other properties does not earn a good enough return to warrant future deals.

Although taxpayers should cheer when our elected representatives look to curb wasteful spending, this amendment is unfortunately another example (among many) of members of Congress looking to make political hay by going after a media-attracting target with misleading arguments, a lack of facts and no real grasp of the issue they are talking about, instead of attacking the billions of dollars of real waste in government spending.

Instead of looking elsewhere in the $608 billion defense bill, McCollum and Kingston distract everyone by focusing on the shiny object in the corner: the spending of approximately $60 million on sponsorship (with roughly half of that going to NASCAR teams and properties).

To put this in context, they are concerned with about .0001% of defense spending. This is the equivalent of trying to save $1 on a $10,000 purchase.

Even that might be laudable if the $60 million was actually being wasted. But it’s not. In saying that sponsorships are not good marketing tools for the military, McCollum and Kingston are just plain wrong.

The marketers employed by the military branches and their agencies understand the ability of sponsorship to achieve multiple objectives far better than Rep. McCollum, whose private sector marketing experience referenced in the USA Today article was actually 14 years as a retail sales manager for Dayton’s department store.

In addition to attracting qualified recruiting leads on site—the one objective McCollum and Kingston understand—sponsorships by the U.S. Army, Air Force, National Guard and other branches achieve multiple other goals. Those include connecting with parents, teachers, coaches and others who influence teen and young-adult career paths, as well as boosting morale among our men and women already in uniform.

McCollum and Kingston completely ignore the dramatic impact of bringing a NASCAR or NHRA showcar to a high school to engage with highly targeted students who are in a prime position to become the technicians, mechanics and other specialists so badly needed by the military. The representatives fail to comprehend how the Army uses its relationship with NASCAR driver Ryan Newman—who has an engineering degree—to start conversations with engineers, another segment desperately needed to support our defense efforts.

The legislators also ignore that all the military branches have already made significant cuts to their sponsorship spending. The Army alone has cut its budget by 40 percent in the last two years, according to a February article in IEG Sponsorship Report.

Not every military deal is above criticism; McCollum calls out a National Guard race track deal in 2010 that appears to have returned a paltry number of qualified leads. But the Minnesota Democrat and her Georgia colleague from across the aisle know they won’t get their names in the national media by doing the right thing and suggesting that military sponsorships adopt more strategic planning processes or more rigorous measurement tools.

Instead, they resort to a grandstanding attention grab by calling for an outright ban. Thank goodness the service members of the U.S. military are better able to select the right targets and have far better aim than our legislators.


government/municipal legislation NASCAR sports backlash


Read more blog posts

Jim Andrews

About the Author

A 30-year sponsorship industry veteran, Jim is responsible for developing and sharing thought-leadership content based on ESP Properties’ groundbreaking work in the areas of sponsorship strategy, valuation, measurement, digital content, data-driven marketing and fan engagement.

In addition to identifying key trends and delivering his unique insights into the critical issues facing rightsholders and their commercial partners, Jim is the chairman of the Annual Sponsorship Conference, responsible for the program and speakers, as well as hosting and delivering the event’s opening address. He also is responsible for the company’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending, as well as its compilation of biggest spending companies and annual industry surveys.

A frequent media commentator and guest, Jim has been a featured speaker at hundreds of sports, entertainment and marketing conferences around the world.



Please login to post a comment.

Kevin Kastner 7/3/2012 2:08 AM
Thank you for this article. I agree completely that it is misguided to pull all funds. That said, it would be smart if funds were allocated more evenly across the States. NASCAR, while a great property, does little to nothing for recruitment in northern states. If some of their budget was redirected, I know for certain we could do more with our property and reach a large demographic in more than just Alaska. Even with our modest budget, we are making good progress with the National Guard and truly appreciate all they do for our event, our sport and our country!
Ben Patton 6/29/2012 7:33 AM
Good read.

ESP Subscription Bundle

A bundled offering to our most valuable, turnkey intelligence. Learn more