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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2014

Army Guard to seek redesign of sports marketing program within budget constraints

By Lt. Col. Robert L Ditchey II and Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - After undergoing an intensive internal review, the Army National Guard is set to make changes to its sports sponsorship approach to recruitment marketing. These substantial changes include an end to its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal in the Indy Racing League (IRL).

"Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business," said Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard.

The Army Guard spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship for 2014. Future programs will rely on much smaller budgets.

And while sports sponsorships have played an important role in helping the Guard build strong brand awareness, existing Army National Guard sponsorship contracts with NASCAR and IRL are set to expire at the end of the current season, he said.

"We believe industry and open competition can help us identify effective and efficient solutions to help us meet our marketing and recruiting objectives within budget constraints," Lyons said.

Motorsports sponsorships served as a way to build greater awareness of the Army Guard as a whole.

"As part of a broad recruitment marketing strategy, motorsports partnerships-including NASCAR-played an important role in helping the National Guard build strong brand awareness and in turn helped us achieve extraordinary recruiting and end-strength objectives over the past decade," said Lt. Col. Christian Johnson, who heads Army Guard marketing.

"Our NASCAR sponsorship was principally a marketing program, intended primarily to build awareness of the National Guard as a career option" said Johnson. "The NASCAR sponsorship allowed the National Guard to leverage a 77 million fan base and the sport's most popular driver."

Despite reduced budgets, the Army National Guard needs to continue to recruit new people.

"Our accessions mission-the number of new members who need to join the Army Guard each year -is the second largest in the Department of Defense, second only to the active Army," Lyons said.

"To make best use of limited marketing dollars, future programs will have to sustain the Army National Guard brand with the American public, and also generate quality leads that will fill our ranks with the best Soldiers that America has to offer."

Motorsports sponsorships are not the only programs to be impacted by decreasing budgets. Since 2012, the Army Guard has reduced sports sponsorships from six-including professional fishing and motorcycle racing-to just the NASCAR and IndyCar sponsorships. In fiscal year 2015, the Army Guard's marketing budget is expected to be about half of what it was just three years ago in fiscal year 2012.

And as the Army Guard shifts its marketing strategy, one of the key elements behind those changes is maintaining fiscal responsibility.

"We share a common commitment to the American people to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars," Lyonssaid. "We will continue to assess and refine our programs to ensure we get the best return on investment."