U.S. Army cuts NASCAR ties

A pack of cars during the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon.

Kai Ryssdal: Advertising budgets are tight everywhere, as you know, so today the Pentagon announced it's going to re-allocate some of the millions it spends to attract new recruits. The Army's not gonna be back for Nascar's next season. Officials say they've decided to put their sponsorship dollars toward what they call more cost effective advertising.

Here's our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: What, you might ask, does the U.S. Army have to do with stock car racing? Well, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman has been drawing this connection.

U.S. Army video: It's all about speed and power, but it's also about state-of-the-art technology and teamwork. Those attributes make our Army and our race team stronger.

Which might help Nascar's Stewart-Haas Racing team. But congressional critics complain it hasn't justified the nearly $20 million spent on the sponsorship in the past couple of years.

Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum applauds the army's decision to pull out. She points out the Army National Guard is still spending nearly half its $54 million ad budget on one race-car driver -- with nothing to show for it.

Betty McCollum: The Guard themselves gave me this information: They were contacted by 24,800 individuals; 20 were qualified, and none of them joined. They need to be putting it towards programs that are efficient and effective.

McCollum says she's not against effective advertising to attract recruits, but she wants to bar military spending on sports sponsorships, ranging from car racing to bass fishing. The Army will still sponsor the National Hot Rod Association. We found some drag-racing videos on the Army's website that might just raise the eyebrows of prospective recruits.

U.S. Army video: We have ashes that are put in the parachute packs from soldiers, from family members, that Tony -- when he throws the chutes -- it basically spreads the ashes at over 300 miles an hour.

The head of the Army's Marketing and Research Group, John Myers, says the effectiveness of all ad spending gets a regular, rigorous review. He hopes lawmakers let the military keep deciding how best to spend the money, but he adds:

John Myer: If and when Congress enacts a law that affect those plans, we will salute and march out.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...