ESGR, NASCAR Getting Word Out to Employers
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 12, 2004 Though Ricky Craven, driving # Navy Reserve car No. 29 finished 11th in the Tropicana Twister 300 at Chicagoland Speedway July 10, one of the driver's biggest fans didn't go kicking the tires.
An excellent pit stop takes under 15 seconds. This particular
one was 14.2 seconds. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Guadalupe Stratman,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Bob Hollingsworth, executive director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, told the Pentagon Channel's Cara Hunt he was just pleased to see the ESGR logo painted on the side of Craven's Chevrolet speed around the track again, and again, and again.
In Hollingsworth's eyes, each trip around the track is name recognition for his agency. He said NASCAR has become "a good way to get the word out about ESGR."
The ESGR is a Department of Defense agency whose mission is to gain and maintain support from public and private employers for the men and women of the National Guard and reserves.
"When I first came to the agency, there was only a 2 percent brand recognition of ESGR," he said. "After we've been involved with NASCAR a couple of years, it's increased up to 46 percent. Now, that is a huge increase."
Part of the reason behind recognition growth is that NASCAR represents major corporations, Hollingsworth said. "And those corporations hire Guard and reserve members," he added.
He noted that the ESGR car in this race was not so much about winning the race as it was about "winning the hearts of people."
Part of that campaign is the public display of the ESGR NASCAR show car at racing events. He said the car is displayed at more than 100 businesses each year.
Then there is the huge ESGR banner at each NASCAR circuit event to collect thousands of signatures, which he says will "let service members overseas know that 'America supports you.'"
That is why Richard Childress, who owns Richard Childress Racing, got involved with the ESGR. "A lot of people don't realize how important the ESGR is to our country and our servicemen and women," Childress told the Pentagon Channel. . Childress signed a letter pledging support for ESRG in 2002. Since then, his racecars have carried the ESGR logo at one time or another throughout last season, with all five cars competing in the 2003 Daytona 500.
This season he put together what he calls his "Dream Team" of drivers that includes some of the sports top names.
Bobby Labonte first drove the Army National Guard/Army Reserve car at the Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 3, finishing in the top 10. He was followed by Tony Stewart, who drove the No. 29 Marine Corps Reserve car at the Fontana Raceway in Southern California, on May 10. Kerry Earnhardt will drive the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve car at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del., Sept. 25. Kevin Harvick finishes the series in Homestead, Fla., racing under the National Guard emblem Nov. 20.
A name on the side of a NASCAR car can be a great marketing tool, Childress said, especially in a sport that ranks second only to the National Football League in attendance.
"Not only do you have the visibility at the race track, but it's everything that the people and companies do with (your logo) besides the race track," he said.
"So putting this program together, I think, is something that we are all doing to try to help get the awareness of the ESGR out there," he explained.
Childress twice has visited military troops stationed overseas. He's traveled to Bosnia and, most recently, Iraq. He added that visiting service members is one of the most rewarding experiences in his life.
"The guys over there are so appreciative for us to come," he said. "And a lot of people don't realize what's going on in these countries, just what you see on the news. And for us to be able to see it firsthand and to see how well our troops are being treated is just great."
Like the ESGR, other military services have found a connection with NASCAR as well.
In the July 10 race, NASCAR vehicles displaying military emblems included the Coast Guard Dodge driven by Justin LaBonte, which finished first. The Navy "Accelerate Your Life" Chevy driven by Casey Atwood finished 13th, while the Marine Corps Ford driven by Bobby Hamilton Jr. finished last.