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Army to discontinue NASCAR sponsorship

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 11, 2012) -- After this year, the Army will no longer sponsor a NASCAR team as part of its national branding and accession efforts. But the service will continue other programs to attract new Soldiers and keep itself in the public eye.

"We do a wide array of traditional advertising, and we also do a whole bunch of digital outreach through web platforms and social media," said John Myers, director, marketing support element, Army Marketing and Research Group.

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"We are in every state and every major market, with other marketing and advertising assets, Motorsports, particularly NASCAR, is only one tactic of our overall branding strategy to connect the Army with America."

During fiscal year 2012, the Army committed about $8.4 million to NASCAR sponsorship, which includes 12 NASCAR races. The relationship between the Army and the NASCAR team it sponsors with Ryan Newman will end when the current NASCAR season concludes.

Myers said the Army is looking to reach a particular segment of the population, men between the ages of 18 to 24. But the NASCAR audience, he said, is "starting to skew older."

Now, he said, "we can't justify the investment in NASCAR as much as we can in other things that we are doing; so when our budget is being reduced, we have to make tough decisions. This is a process that we continually undertake as far as analyzing what we are getting for our marketing activity."

The Army isn't pulling out of motorsports entirely. Marketing with the National Hot Rod Association, or NHRA, for instance, "is still giving us good numbers," Myers said.

The Army has a 10-year, ongoing relationship with NHRA and Tony "the Sarge" Schumacher.

"We want to continue that relationship in 2013," Myers said, "because the metrics are suggesting that it is still a very good market for us."

The Army is also involved in the All-American Bowl championship each January. Next year, during the January 2013 All-American Bowl, the Army will kick off a partnership with the NFL Hall of Fame when it announces, at the bowl game, the 2013 U.S. Army Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence Program winner.

The winner will be chosen from a pool of 10 high school students and can be anyone who demonstrates excellence in academics, athletics or community service. Myers said the partnership with the NFL Hall of Fame will be good for the Army.

"How the public considers the NFL, their brand awareness and how it aligns with Army values, that's probably one of the better picks if you are looking for opportunities to exploit," Myers said. "The attributes and values that we insist upon are very closely aligned with some of the values that members who have been selected for the NFL Hall of Fame display."

The Army is looking to market to a more diverse audience, and so its efforts include targeting more than just sports.

"In everything we do, we want to make sure that we are reaching the prospect target population, in a number of ways," Myers said. "Not only in numbers;18 to 24-year-old young men is our major target market, but also within that market, also other mission aspects. If you're going to be representative of the American population, which the Army wants to do, you need to have proper representation of diversity and ethnicity."

Around the United States, the Army puts itself in front of the American public, and in front of potential Soldiers, through sponsorship of and participation in the activities of groups like the League of Latin American Citizens, First Robotics, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Infinite Scholars, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Great Minds in STEM, the National Society of Black Engineers and FFA.

Myers said the Army is looking for a prospect pool of "high quality and diversity." To do that, he said, the approach must be tailored to reach a diverse market. And the Army must also influence parents, teachers, peers and community leaders.

"We do thousands of events across the country," Myers said. "Robotics competitions; we invest in events such as FFA, Skills USA, Association for Career and Technical Education and dozens more. We will redistribute the NASCAR funds to supplement our approach to these other venues that have a higher payoff for us."

While the Army's sponsorship of NASCAR will end, the Army will continue marketing itself to the American people and seek new recruits.

"We will continue, as we always do, to investigate opportunities to put the Army forward to the American people and the prospects that we need to join the Army," Myers said.

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