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Army finds NASCAR racing less attractive option for recruiting youth

Chris Graythen / Getty Images file

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2012 in Concord, N.C.

With the backdrop of a looming political fight over recruitment spending, the Army is putting the brakes on its costly sponsorship of a NASCAR racing team.

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it would stop sponsoring Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 39 Chevrolet driven by Ryan Newman in 2013. The Army allocated $8.4 million in sponsorship spending for this year's 12-race season.

 


The Army has been in NASCAR for 10 seasons. In addition to the highly visible Army race car, the marketing with the racing league included interactive kiosks at the track, engagement areas where recruiters could talk to prospects and educational programs in high schools.

The Army will continue a similar sponsorship of NHRA dragster racing.

The decision to leave NASCAR comes as Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Rep. Jackson Kingston of Georgia are pushing an amendment that would prohibit military sponsorship of sports.

McCollum lost a House vote a year ago to end military sponsorships of NASCAR, professional wrestling and fishing, but is trying again to have the approximately $80 million in sponsorship money cut from the defense budget.

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John Myers, the Army’s civilian director of marketing, told msnbc.com that the move had nothing to do with politics, but more to do with declining budgets and a changing audience of NASCAR.

NASCAR fans are trending older than the 18-34 demographic that the Army targets for its recruitment efforts, he said.

“It’s been skewing older, and in comparison to our other motor sports property, NHRA, it didn’t measure up as well,” Myers said.

McCollum applauded the Army's decision to pull out of NASCAR.

"The Army made the right move to eliminate a wasteful program and protect taxpayer dollars — which has been my goal all along," she said. "Congress is facing a very difficult budget environment, and I want taxpayer dollars protected, even at the Pentagon.

"I will continue to work to save taxpayer dollars by ending all of the Pentagon's multi-million dollar professional sports sponsorships of motor racing, bass fishing and ultimate fighting."

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Myers said the Army will abide by laws laid out by Congress for recruitment spending, and acknowledged the value of sports marketing is being debated.

“There is a dialogue about the value of these things,” he told msnbc.com. “I would hope that Congress would be mindful of the Army’s interest in being an attractive option for America’s youth. One of things we have to do is put our case before America’s youth in various way and one of the ways is sports. Sports are where the kids are who are likely qualify to the Army."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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