Army National Guard Recruiting - McCaskill Scrutinizes Costly, Ineffective Sports Marketing and Sponsorship Contracts

Months after hearing on massive fraud in recruiting program, Senator grills Guard leadership on wasteful spending on marketing contracts with professional sports organizations

WASHINGTON – Only months after an initial hearing examined one of the biggest fraud investigations in U.S. Army history, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today led a hearing on reports of waste and abuse in spending on sports-related marketing and sponsorships with organizations such as NASCAR and IndyCar. 

Each year the National Guard spends more than $56 million on sports marketing with NASCAR and IndyCar, which amounts to 37 percent of its marketing and advertising budget. However in 2012, not a single National Guard soldier was recruited from the NASCAR sponsorship program. In 2013, the program generated fewer than 8,000 leads—far from the roughly 1,000,000 leads the National Guard needs to meet its annual recruiting goal of 50,000 soldiers.

“I really like NASCAR. And I love the National Guard even more than I like NASCAR. This hearing is not about demonizing NASCAR or the National Guard, this hearing is simply about return on investment of federal tax dollars—[it’s about] whether or not federal money is being used wisely, for the intended purpose, and getting the result desired as a result of that investment.” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “As I stated in February when examining the Guard’s Recruiting Assistance Program, I understand that aggressive recruiting is key to maintaining the strength of our military, but Congress has a responsibility to ensure that every taxpayer dollar spent produces measurable results. In this environment of dwindling recruiting budgets, I want to understand why the Army National Guard has maintained sports sponsorships that fail to reach target recruiting demographics, and also provide less value per dollar than other forms of marketing.”

McCaskill questioned Major General Judd Lyons, Acting Director of the National Guard, and Kathy Salas, the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting for the National Guard, on why the Guard continues these contracts when almost every other service branch has discontinued them, and on whether senior Guard officials had the potential to receive perks from NASCAR and Indycar from the sponsorship contracts.

The target demographic for the National Guard is primarily young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. However only 10 percent of NASCAR viewers are between 18 and 24. The average age of an IndyCar fan is between 35 and 54 years old. 

The Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, all of which used to sponsor NASCAR, have all decided to end these programs. The Regular Army ended its sponsorship with NASCAR in 2012 after concluding that the program had the highest cost per lead in the Army’s portfolio of sponsorships. The Marine Corps made the same decision in 2006, when it determined that the cost per impression of sponsoring a NASCAR team was almost impossible to measure. The Navy ended its own sponsorship of NASCAR in 2008 because the program was too expensive compared to the marketing benefit it received. And the Coast Guard ended its relationship with NASCAR in 2006 due to the cost of the sponsorship and only generating 350 leads for their $9.6 million investment.

Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill’s fight for stronger accountability in Washington.