After Wasting $136 Million On Dale Earnhardt Jr., The Military Might Pull Out Of NASCAR

Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard No. 88 NASCARDale Earnhardt Jr.’s 88, minus a pile of cash strapped to the hood.

Photo: Flickr – The National Guard

Dale Earnhardt Jr. might need a new sponsor next year and it has nothing to do with his nearly four-year losing streak.The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment Thursday banning all military sponsorships of professional sport.

For the past two years, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has made reducing military spending on sports a personal cause and this year she got a Republican from Georgia to go to bat with her in committee, Rep. Jack Kingston.

McCollum’s argument—pro sponsorships don’t work.

The military spends nearly $100 million sponsoring sports, but its most prominent and largest expenditure is Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver. The National Guard has paid him $136 million  over the past five years, leading to McCollum calling him “the highest paid military contractor in professional sports.”

For many, NASCAR’s fan base is the exact demographic for the military.

“What better group to communicate to than NASCAR fans if you’re the Department of defence?” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) according to USA Today.

The problem is effectiveness. In FY2009, the National Guard spent $27.35 million sponsoring Earnhardt alone, but only added 343 guardsmen, according to USA Today—a cost of near $80,000 per new hire, just for recruiting. (According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers the average cost per hire for new college graduates in 2009 was $5,708.)

McCollum told USA Today the sponsorship of the Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway in 2010 resulted in 439 leads, but zero new guardsmen—at the cost of $650,000.

Things aren’t looking better in 2012. According to a press release from McCollum’s office, there is not a single new guardsman who listed NASCAR as their reason for joining in FY2012, despite more than $26 million spent on Earnhardt’s car, one of three drivers sponsored by the military.

There was a staggering amount of interest—24,800 prospects—but only 20 were listed as “qualified candidates.” The larger funding bill heads to the floor of the House, where it failed 281-148 last year with almost no Republican support. This time, the vote is expected to be at least closer, if not different.

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