“The question is, why are taxpayer dollars being used to sponsor NASCAR race cars? We’ve got two wars going on. Can we afford it? This is not an attack on NASCAR. There are a lot of private sector businesses that support NASCAR. The Pentagon is in the war-fighting business and not the race business.”
I believe this comes down to one’s fundamental belief in the efficacy of sponsorship. If you think sponsorship is effective, then spending money in this way is fine. If you think sponsorship is just a waste of money and a way for decision-makers to get good seats at sporting events, you’re not going to like sponsorship no matter how little money is spent. The Congresswoman hasn’t released a comment as yet, but her chief of staff’s statement above makes me think they’re in the latter camp; further, it appears to be a very myopic view.
He states that “The Pentagon is in the war-fighting business and not the race business.” However, if the sponsorship is effective at strengthening the military brand in the eyes of the military’s target market (1-in-3 servicepeople is a NASCAR fan, and 1-in-5 NASCAR fans either serves now or has served in the military, says NASCAR PR man @RamseyPoston), it may be a worthwhile recruiting tool. Further, it is a form of after-marketing: it may make military people feel better about their time in the service and their connection with other veterans.
We don’t know what the military’s objectives are in the sponsorship, and we haven’t seen the market research data, so there is no way for us to know whether this is an effective sponsorship (I’m guessing Congresswoman McCollum hasn’t delved into the research either). But if it is effective, why cut the money? Acquiring and supporting your human capital [troops] is part of the “war business,” and if the NASCAR sponsorship is the right method through which that can be accomplished, keep it up. If it’s not, however, the money shouldn’t have been spent that way in the first place, even when times are good.
This situation is exactly what financial institutions faced when they received TARP funding. Suddenly sport sponsorships sports were a waste of taxpayer money. If the sponsorships were effective at getting customers before (Bank of America reports a 3:1 return on sport marketing spending), forcing banks to stop this sponsorships at a time when they most need customers is a terrible decision. Likewise, if sponsoring NASCAR benefits our military, in the middle of fighting two wars is the worst time to cut marketing.