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Teamwork vital to promoting Air Force awareness

  • Published
  • By Dale Eckroth
  • Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service
The Air Force is all about teamwork. It's in recruiting brochures and Air Force commercials. No matter how big or small the mission, teamwork is a way of life.

For Tech. Sgt. Rick Jones, NCO in charge of the Air Force NASCAR program, teamwork is vital in promoting Air Force awareness to millions of race fans.

"It takes months of planning and coordination by Air Force Recruiting Service and our contracted advertising agency, GSD&M Idea City, to ensure a successful NASCAR season," Sergeant Jones said.

Sergeant Jones acts as the liaison between AFRS, local recruiting squadron marketers, Air Force general officers, NASCAR track officials and the Richard Petty Motorsports team, owner of the No. 43 car.

AFRS officials work closely with GSD&M to determine which races will provide the most value and strongest exposure for the Air Force within a specific budget.

"NASCAR teams place a lot of value on primary paint schemes based on the amount of exposure the brand receives for having a logo on the car," said Kyle Burnett, event marketing supervisor at GSD&M. "Our objective is clear, our task is to be as strategic as possible in selecting the right races."

During the 2009 season, Air Force officials contracted to be the prime sponsor for four races but ended up with six. Mr. Burnett said Richard Petty Motorsports, also known as RPM, provided the two additional primary paint races as an added value at no additional cost.

Mr. Burnett serves as the lead on all Air Force-sponsored motorsports events. His job is to negotiate and secure select sponsorship opportunities as well as manage activation elements for those events. That includes booth space and placement, producing and shipping sponsorship signage and providing lead capture tools.

"NASCAR is the largest sponsorship in the motorsports portfolio for the Air Force," Mr. Burnett said. "It gives the Air Force an opportunity to inspire America's communities of parents, influencers and youth. It also serves as a tool for making connections with a very selective audience and helps build positive brand perception. It ultimately assists recruiters in gaining quality leads."

The Air Force also benefits from the show car program included as part of the sponsorship of the No. 43 car. The show cars, which are scheduled by Staff Sgt. Vanessa Ingle, AFRS event marketing program manager, provide an opportunity for people to get close to the Air Force brand in a familiar way. Two show cars travel to NASCAR races, high schools and other prime locations across the country as an additional tool in helping to build awareness and positive brand perceptions.

With the help of the event marketing team, Sergeant Jones maintains daily contact with the RPM team for scheduling and planning. He also works with various general officers for pre-race activities such as delayed entry program swear-ins, media interviews, "meet and greet" with the No. 43 car driver, team and crew, as well as coordinating appearances in the local recruiting squadron.

"Having the Air Force's higher leadership present at NASCAR races is a direct reflection of their support for our recruiting mission," Sergeant Jones said. "It also means a lot to the DEPpers and parents. It's a great way to help generate more Air Force awareness by allowing general officers to meet local community influencers."

"Sergeant Jones serves as our eyes and voice on the ground and is instrumental in providing feedback on what is working and how we can improve our NASCAR program," Mr. Burnett said.

By the end of this NASCAR season, Sergeant Jones will have attended more than 30 races and traveled more than 60,000 miles to ensure the Air Force NASCAR program is a success. It's a lot of work, but it's a job he says he's proud to have.

"The Air Force stresses teamwork and without it on and off the track, none of this would be possible to complete our mission, which is to inspire, engage and recruit," he said.