Army National Guard "All In" on Sponsorship
One branch that is particularly bullish on sports sponsorship is the Army National Guard. It currently has the greatest presence in motor sports of all military branches. The Guard's current sponsorship portfolio includes:
- NASCAR - Sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Will spend more than $29 million this year on rights fees and activation
- IndyCar - Sponsorship of Panther Racing and drivers Ryan Briscoe and JR Hildebrand at a cost of more than $14 million
- American Motorcyclist Association - Almost $4 million spent to sponsor this national sanctioning body for motorcycle racing
A Question of Fit
If the political posturing is removed from the picture, the core question of whether military branches should use sponsorship as a marketing vehicle is the same one that any business must ask: Does a good fit, or match exist between our brand and the brand with which we will associate? Of utmost interest is whether there is a good fit between the target market of the sponsor and audience or fan base of the sports property. For the National Guard, the answer is a resounding "yes." The primary audience it targets, young adults ages 17-24, can be reached effectively through NASCAR, IndyCar, and AMA. A study conducted by Alan Newman Research gives evidence to the Army National Guard that sponsorship resonates with recruits:
- 90% of enlistees or re-enlisted personnel said they were exposed to the Guard through marketing materials featuring NASCAR teams and drivers.
- 85% agreed that professional sports sponsorship is beneficial for attracting and retaining good soldiers.
For those of you teaching sports marketing, this issue can make for interesting classroom discussion. Should military branches have constraints imposed on their marketing budgets because they are public entities? Or, should marketers have the leeway to do what they believe will be most effective for achieving objectives?