MEMBER OF CONGRESS STILL CONTINUES TO QUESTION THE U.S. MILITARY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH NASCAR

U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, last week vowed to continue her fight to drastically slash, if not even eliminate, the portion of the Department of Defense’s budget that is being spent on advertising with professional sports organizations and their events. The Congress woman said she will not give up this cause despite the fact that there seems to be very little support from her Congressional colleagues many, of whom, agree with Pentagon officials in the belief that these sponsorships actually bolsters military recruitment stats.

[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]While McCollum’s proposed Congressional amendments references military sponsorships of all major sporting events, her focus seems to be aimed at NASCAR racing. She points out that the Pentagon spent a staggering amount of money during the 2010 NASCAR racing season. Currently the U.S. Army, the National Guard and the U.S. Air Force are involved in sponsorship programs with NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing teams.

This issue first made the Congressional news back in February when McCollum proposed an amendment that would ban military sponsorship in professional sports. The proposed amendment fell to defeat following a committee vote.

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However, prior to the vote, there was some lively debate representing both sides of the issue. According to an official transcript, provided by the U.S. Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives, McCollum presented her argument for the amendment’s passage by saying “my amendment ends tens of million of taxpayer’s dollars from being wasted on the sponsorships of NASCAR race cars by the Department of Defense. With trillion dollar deficits, this amendment is where the rubber meets the road for my Republican Tea Party colleagues, who want to cut wasteful spending. We have the Army spending $7 million for a decal on a racing car. Talk about taxpayer sticker shock.”

McCollum’s defense of her proposed amendment was immediately followed by a rebuttal from Representative Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina, who claimed that his colleague from Minnesota was “simply misinformed” and her proposed amendment will not save one single dime. McHenry also pointed out that the media impressions, from the Army’s campaign alone, could be easily measured and the results were highly positive.

“Let’s be clear, this (Army) sponsorship is about recruiting. The vast majority of NASCAR fans, one out of five NASCAR fans, have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. It’s a target rich environment for the Army’s recruiting message and a target rich environment for military and the military message,” McHenry said.

Yes, it’s certain that it was duly pointed out that Congressman McHenry represents a state that plays host to many NASCAR sanctioned events as well as being the home of the majority of the Sprint Cup race shops as well as NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.

Sadly, in mid February, this issue hit a very serious note. According to reports, first published by “My Fox Twin Cities.Com”, McCollum’s office received a faxed letter alleging a death threat over her proposal to terminate military sponsorships in NASCAR.

While no author’s name of the fax was mentioned, this letter reportedly contained some inappropriate language that suggested McCollum should “shut her (expletive) pie hole.” The fax also contained a cartoon drawing of “President Obama’s head being pulled behind a truck in a noose.” The Fox report also stated that this letter “called for the deaths of all Marxists and referred to the President, McCollum and Attorney General Eric Holder as Marxist thugs.”

Undaunted, McCollum continued her cause and in recent days submitted another amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill. According to reports from “The Hill.Com”, McCollum’s newest effort would have “required the military to submit to a 30 day Congressional review period on any contract larger than $250,000 to sponsor a motor sports racing team, driver, event, a professional fishing team or tournament, a professional wrestling event or an ultimate fighting event.” This latest effort was also denied following a committee vote.

According to Pentagon figures, obtained and released by McCollum’s staff members, the National Guard spent approximately $20 million with Hendrick Motorsports, during the 2010 season, for sponsorships on race cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon. In all fairness, it was pointed out that this figure was considerably down from the $32.7 million spent during the previous year. Meanwhile the Army spent $7.4 million last year which was trimmed down from $11.6 million in 2009.

The question remains: is there an accurate way of measuring tangible results from these advertising campaigns? Actually there is. It’s a service provided by a civilian company named Joyce Julius and Associates. Headquartered in Ann Arbor-Michigan, Joyce Julius and Associates Inc is regarded as the sports and entertainment industry leader in accurate measurement and evaluation of sponsorships and promotional programs. They generate their figures based on broadcast television exposure monitoring, full media measurements and fan/consumer perception analyses. They also back that elaborate procedure up with 27 years of experience.

Let’s just look at one example from a race team with military themed sponsorship: Dale Earnhardt Jr and his #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet. The following stats, from Joyce Julius and Associates, was compiled during the first one third, or 12 races, from the current 2011 season:

Sponsor exposure time: 5 hours, 36 minutes and 54 seconds. Verbal mentions, (during a NASCAR live and repeat broadcast): 18 Driver interviews: 8 Interview durations: 13 minutes, 7 seconds. Driver mentions: 1,140 Recognition Grade, (RG) exposure value: $21,835,475.

That’s just for the first 12 NASCAR races of the current season. With Earnhardt seemingly on his way to a starting berth in the 2011 Chase, imagine what those numbers are going to be at the end of the season.

This level of brand exposure calculation is also a ringing endorsement for the beliefs of military and Congressional figures who truly believe that the taxpayers are getting more bang for their buck with these sponsorship campaigns.

However Congresswoman Betty McCollum apparently remains unconvinced and is reported to be laying the ground work for her next move towards reducing Pentagon spending in NASCAR.

According to a June 20th report, from “The Hill.Com”, Bill Harper, McCollum’s chief of staff, said “the lawmaker will likely offer an amendment on the House floor to the 2012 Pentagon appropriations bill that would limit the funds the military could spend on sporting events.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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