US Senator Politicizes National Guard-NFL Team Sports Marketing

Controversy has arisen about marketing sponsorship programs between NFL teams and the National Guard/Department of Defense.

US Senator Jeff Flake (R – Arizona) singled out the New York Jets in an April 30th press release, declaring  an “egregious and unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars by the New Jersey Army National Guard (NJARNG).”

It’s part of his #PorkChops series highlighting what he perceives to be government waste.  The story was reported locally in New Jersey on May 8th (Christopher Baxter and Jonathan D. Salant of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com).


Let’s explain what happened and then assess.

Credit: NJ National Guard.

Credit: NJ National Guard.

The New Jersey National Guard (NJARNG) paid for a marketing sponsorship with the New York Jets the past four seasons (2011 to 2014).  The components were relatively standard fare for sports sponsorships.

Key features included:

  • Allow 10 NJARNG Soldiers to attend the Jets’ Annual Kickoff Lunch in New York City.  At the luncheon, the Soldiers will have the opportunity to meet and take pictures with various members of the Jets organization for promotional use for recruiting and retention purposes for the NJ Army National Guard.
  • In-stadium branding on monitors; Facebook social media promotion.
  • Allow NJARNG to participate in the Jets Hometown Huddle charity event in which Jets players and coaches will work side by side with the Soldiers to build or refurbish a community asset. i.e., build a new playground, rehab an existing park, etc. for promotional use for recruiting and retention purposes for the NJ Army National Guard.
  • 24 Game Access Passes.
  • Use of Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for up to 100 attendees to conduct formal meeting or event.
  • A videoboard feature – Hometown Hero.  For each of their 8 home game, the Jets will recognize 1-2 NJARNG Soldiers as Home Town Heroes.  Their picture will be displayed on the videoboard, their name will be announced over the loud-speaker, and they will be allowed to watch the game, along with 3 friends or family members, from the Coaches Club.

Total payments from the Department of Defense and the New Jersey National Guard to the Jets over four years were $377,000.

What’s so controversial, you may be wondering?

After all, we’re used to seeing a variety of marketing communications geared to promote recruitment for the various branches of the armed forces and to keep brand awareness strong (no complaints for The Few, The Proud, The Marines, I don’t think).

When we cut to the chase – shock and awe – politics are driving this controversy!


Let’s sort it out.

To begin, Flake’s press release is sensationalized, incomplete and out of context. Continue reading