Only a few days after Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the sweep of races this season at Pocono news has come that he’s losing the sponsor that fans most associate with him. According to reports the National Guard has announced that it will no longer be sponsoring cars in both NASCAR and IndyCar. The move will impact both Earnhardt and Graham Rahal.
The announcement came Wednesday from the National Guard in a statement that says that its current contracts with both Hendrick Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are ending - apparently after the 2014 race season.
After the National Guard’s announcement hit the news cycle, Hendrick Motorsports fired back with one of their own saying that the contract does not end after this season. The Hendrick statement stated the team "has a contract in place to continue the National Guard program at its current level in 2015. We have not been approached by the Guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement."
Of course the Hendrick statement does not have any bearing on any contracts between the National Guard and the Rahal organization.
"We were informed this afternoon that the National Guard will end all sponsorship of motorsports, including both IndyCar and NASCAR at the conclusion of the 2014 seasons," Rahal said in a release.
"This is obviously very disappointing news to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing given the significant incremental brand exposure we have worked to produce for the National Guard in our first season together, including various off-track marketing and advertising programs focused on supporting the mission set forth."
The move to end sponsorships in the world of racing is obviously one that is not associated with the performance of the two drivers. Both Earnhardt and Rahal are considered to be two of the most popular drivers in racing. Earnhardt has been voted as being the most popular driver in NASCAR year after year for almost a decade.
Both of the drivers have also participated in events with the National Guard for the troops, families, and veterans. It’s a move that even the Guard says is more about money than anything else given the current fiscal climate in Washington. National Guard Acting Director, Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, hinted that the move would probably not be the last cost cutting move taken.
“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business."
The Price Tag
So how much does sponsoring the most popular driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cost? The National Guard says that the price tag for sponsoring Earnhardt was $32 Million bucks for the 2014 season. Comparatively speaking the IndyCar sponsorship of Rahal was a bargain at only $12 million dollars.
That money helped the National Guard latch onto one heck of a fan base. It’s well known that NASCAR fans tend to be very supportive of the military. Army Guard Marketing Chief Lt. Col. Christian Johnson stated on the Guard’s website that the sponsorship of NASCAR took full advantage of being associated with Earnhardt.
"Our NASCAR sponsorship was principally a marketing program, intended primarily to build awareness of the National Guard as a career option," Johnson said.
"The NASCAR sponsorship allowed the National Guard to leverage a 77 million fan base and the sport's most popular driver. 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.”