Major sports try to save military sponsorships

As the House of Representatives works on the military budget for next year, a group of major sports organizations are asking lawmakers to back off restrictions in the bill that would cut down on military sponsorship of sporting events.

The idea was included in the bill earlier this summer as a way to save money; it has bipartisan backing, but could face a vote in the full House at some point this week.

"Given the success of the military's use of professional sports to reach out to the American people, we encourage you to support the U.S. Armed Forces and enable them to continue to have the same access to media and venues as world leading businesses and nonprofits," read a letter approved by NASCAR, the NFL, NBA, IndyCar and Major League Baseball.

The effort comes just days after the Army announced it would end its sponsorship in NASCAR.

"By ending its sponsorship of NASCAR, the Army made the right move to eliminate a wasteful program and protect taxpayer dollars – which has been my goal all along," said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), who engineered the ban on military sponsorhips in next year's defense budget bill with Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).

"In the face of deep cuts and troop force reductions, the military should not be spending nearly $100 million sponsoring professional sports," Kingston said in May, though it earned him some public scorn from his southern constituents.

As for the sports organizations, here is the letter sent this week to Congressional leaders:

The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We write to urge your continued opposition to the Kingston-McCollum Amendment to the House DOD Appropriations bill -- an amendment that would eliminate the U.S. Armed Forces' use of professional sport sponsorships as a means to achieve military recruiting and retention goals. For good reasons, a similar amendment has already failed twice in the 112th Congress -- once by a vote of 148-281 (Roll Call vote #90) and again by a vote of 167-260 (Roll Call vote #512).

Since the end of the civilian draft in 1971, the Services branches, with Congressional support, have employed a range of marketing tools to remain connected to the American people and, in particular, the young men and women whose commitment to our armed forces is critical to defending our freedoms at home and peace around the world. As major companies and nonprofits know well, sports marketing is a unique opportunity to reach young adults. Accordingly, sports marketing has long been an important element in the U.S. Armed Forces' efforts to reach young adults and active duty personnel regarding the military's mission and objectives that serve our country.

Today, while most Americans view military service as admirable, military recruiting is more challenging than ever as young adults are more difficult to reach through traditional media and local channels. Unfortunately, it is in this environment that the military's discretion to use sports marketing has come under attack in Congress. The Kingston-McCollum Amendment to the DOD appropriations bill, which recently passed in the House Appropriations Committee, would place restrictions on the military's ability to leverage sports marketing -- its most efficient tool -- to reach our young men and women. The amendment would directly inhibit the military's recruiting efforts at and around professional sports events.

Professional sport sponsorships by the Services branches have made a direct impact on military recruiting. For example, in 2010, the Army's recruiting efforts at NASCAR events resulted in 46,000 qualified leads. Similarly, the Services branches' partnerships with the National Basketball Association, National Football League, Major League Baseball and the IZOD IndyCar Series have created numerous points of contact, such as at games and local community events and online, to engage with young adults on the possibilities and rewards of military service. The benefits from these types of sponsorships offset the minimal costs to taxpayers.

Given the success of the military's use of professional sports to reach out to the American people, we encourage you to support the U.S. Armed Forces and enable them to continue to have the same access to media and venues as world leading businesses and nonprofits. Please work to remove the Kingston-McCollum Amendment from the House DOD Appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

NASCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association

As the House of Representatives works on the military budget for next year, a group of major sports organizations are asking lawmakers to back off restrictions in the bill that would cut down on military sponsorship of sporting events. The idea was included in the bill earlier this summer as ...