Since 2008, the National Guard has been a NASCAR sponsor for driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The Guard announced this week that it will be ending its sponsorship, although it is unclear when it will happen.
According to the Denver Post, Hendrick Motorsports stated it has a contract through 2015.
“We have not been approached by the guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement,” the team said.
The guard became Earnhardt’s sponsor when he joined Hendricks Motorsports. This year alone, he has won three races and is second in the Sprint Cup standing.
Fox News reported that Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, said in a statement he learned of the guard’s decision on Wednesday. He called it disappointing news “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 guard said in a statement posted on its web site that it spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship this year, and noted that “sports sponsorships have played an important role in helping the guard build strong brand awareness.” But, the guard statement said its sponsorship contracts in NASCAR and IndyCar “are set to expire at the end of the current season,” which contradicts the Hendrick claim.
“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business,” Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting Director of the Army National Guard, said in the statement.
The guard said in its statement that motorsports is not the only marketing arena to suffer under reduced budgets. In the past 2 years, it has cut its sponsorships from six other sporting events. In 2015, the guard’s budget will be half of what it was in 2012.
The Denver Post reported that after a prolonged battle with Panther Racing, which had the sponsorship in IndyCar from 2008 through 2013, Rahal was able to obtain it. Even though the sponsorship was to take effect at the end of last year, Panther owner John Barnes appealed and the review dragged on for months. The appeal was eventually denied and RRL announced in February that the guard would be the primary sponsor for Rahal’s No. 15 Honda.
According to Fox News, Panther Racing has since filed suit against RLL, IndyCar and Document Packaging Brokers, an Alabama-based company known as Docupak that is involved in administering the guard sponsorship agreements. Panther alleges it lost sponsorship valued at $17.2 million a year because of bid-rigging and other improprieties.