SBD/Issue 30/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr. Named Most Marketable NASCAR Drivers

By Tim Glase, Staff Writer, The Sports Business Daily

While the NASCAR Winston Cup Series has enjoyed increasing popularity over the last few seasons, only four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. possess broad national commercial appeal, according to the results of a new survey by THE DAILY, which shows that Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. are by far the most marketable NASCAR drivers. The rest of the top five — Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett — may be household names within the NASCAR community, but our survey suggests that they still lack broad national appeal outside the sport. Rounding out the top ten are Michael Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, and Mark Martin and Jeff Burton.

POLL POSITION: THE DAILY recently surveyed almost 100 marketers, race promoters, sponsorship consultants and members of the motorsports media. All were asked, "Who are the five most marketable drivers in NASCAR?" The drivers were awarded points on a sliding scale — with five points awarded for a first-place vote, down to one point for a fifth-place vote. "% of Points" = The number of points a driver received divided by the total number of points awarded. For example, Jeff Gordon received 417 points, or 28.4%, of the total 1,470. The maximum points one driver could receive (all first place votes) was 490, or 33% of the total.

NAME TEAM SPONSOR
TOTAL
% OF
VOTE
% ON
BALLOT
Jeff Gordon DuPont
417
28.4%
98.0%
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Budweiser
401
27.3%
99.0%
Jimmie Johnson Lowe's
164
11.2%
62.2%
Tony Stewart The Home Depot
162
11.0%
63.3%
Dale Jarrett UPS
96
6.5%
41.8%
Michael Waltrip NAPA
44
3.0%
23.5%
Rusty Wallace Miller Lite
31
2.1%
17.3%
Ryan Newman Alltel
22
1.5%
15.3%
Kyle Petty Sprint
18
1.2%
10.2%
Mark Martin Pfizer/Viagra
16
1.1%
10.2%
Jeff Burton Citgo
16
1.1%
11.2%

View the entire results.

Gordon On “The Drew
Carey Show”

SUPER G: With four Winston Cup championships to his credit, the 31-year-old Jeff Gordon has already established himself as an appealing corporate spokesperson. Gordon is partnered with several brands, including DuPont, Chevrolet, PepsiCo and FosterGrants. The Motorsports Decisions Group President Danielle Randall-Bauer said, "Gordon's marketing team continues to place him with key partners who reinforce Jeff Gordon as a brand builder, which in turn continues to build the Jeff Gordon name." Redmandarin VP/North America Ethan Green added, "Gordon generated his marketability because the Pepsi/Frito-Lays of the world banked on his success on the track and put him in the spotlight, which helped increase his name recognition and popularity among casual fans and non-fans." Gordon has done cameos on some TV sitcoms, such as "The Drew Carey Show," and has co-hosted "Live! With Regis and Kelly." Gordon also has a role in Warner Bros.' new "Looney Tunes" movie, which is due out next year. "NASCAR on Fox" analyst Larry McReynolds said, "Gordon took our sport to a different level and attracted another fan base that wasn't following our sport." Texas Motor Speedway GM Eddie Gossage said, "Gordon's popularity is near the point of transcending the sport like Ali was to boxing. The great thing about Jeff is that he is capable of attracting thousands of new fans while thrilling the sport's old fans." Three Wide Marketing's Dan Fromm said, "Gordon's the only driver who has the image, appeal and consistent on-track performance."

Earnhardt Cashes In On Looks

LITTLE E MAKES IT BIG: Earnhardt — the name says it all. Like his late father, the 28-year-old Dale Earnhardt Jr. has become one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR. Earnhardt Jr. is partnered with brands such as Budweiser, Drakkar Noir, Nabisco and Pennzoil. Off the track, Earnhardt Jr. is making headway in mainstream pop culture, as he appears in Sheryl Crow's "Steve McQueen" music video and was featured on MTV's "Cribs." CMI Managing Dir Tom Cotter said, "Earnhardt Jr. speaks to today's youth, listens to today's music, is extremely computer literate, and has the look and the language that appeal to today's youth." NBC/TNT NASCAR pit reporter Marty Snider: "Earnhardt Jr. is a pop icon, and to about 80% of this country he is NASCAR." Camp & Associates President Larry Camp said Earnhardt Jr. "has crossover ability to market products heretofore not seen in NASCAR. Drakkar Noir? What Drakkar Noir marketer would have thought about NASCAR before Earnhardt Jr.?" National Speed Sports News' Steve Mayer, "Earnhardt Jr.'s equally comfortable in slacker clothes and Armani suits and thus his appeal to those in their 20s and 30s is unmistakable." Earnhardt Jr. released his autobiography, "Driver 8," earlier this year, and ESPN2's Robin Miller said, "If his autobiography can reach the N.Y. Times bestseller list and stay there, he's pretty much untouchable among the rest of the competition."

Will Lowe's Make
Johnson A Star?

ROOKIE SENSATION: In his first season in the Winston Cup Series, the 27-year-old Jimmie Johnson has taken the sport by storm, winning three times this year. Johnson's team is co-owned by Jeff Gordon, and many feel the combination of Gordon as team owner and Lowe's Home Improvement as sponsor will help Johnson in the marketplace. Protential President Eric DeBord said, "Johnson is the 'real deal' with marketers having literally a greenfield opportunity with this handsome, articulate Cup winner." NBC/TNT NASCAR announcer Allen Bestwick: "Despite being new on the scene, he seems to be comfortable moving between the board room, press room and pit area." Phoenix Int'l Raceway President Bryan Sperber noted, "Although it's early in his career, he seems to be a good long-term bet for sponsors."

Is Stewart A Modern-Day
Darrell Waltrip?

SMOKE STACKS UP WELL: He may be touted as NASCAR's "bad boy," but the 32-year-old Tony Stewart ranks fourth on THE DAILY's marketability meter and is the current Winston Cup points leader. His marketing partners, including The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Old Spice and Pontiac, are no doubt happy with the success he's had on the track. But despite that on-track success, many feel his intensity, which has led to a number of issues off the track, may hinder Stewart in the endorsement realm. CMI's Cotter said, "To the right sponsor, he could be the right guy. Whatever company does sponsor him, though, needs to have a crisis plan in place just in case he had a potential brand-damaging episode at the wrong time." Williams Company President Chip Williams said, "If he can stay on the right side of the proverbial 'thin line,' he is tremendously marketable." Former driver turned "NASCAR on Fox" analyst Darrell Waltrip said, "Some may think his image is a detriment to our sport. I totally disagree with that. He tells it like it is, shoots from the hip and doesn't worry about being 'politically correct.' I used to know a driver like that and he turned out pretty good."

Jarrett Enjoys Positive
Public Image

DJ ON THE UPS: One of the sport's elder statesman, the 45-year-old Dale Jarrett, speaks to the older generation of NASCAR fans. With the '99 Winston Cup championship to his credit, Jarrett currently pitches UPS, as well as Outback Steakhouse, Coca-Cola and Ford. UPS features Jarrett in its popular national "Race the Truck" campaign, and the Columbia (SC) State's Jim McLaurin said the UPS spots "have played up to Jarrett's deadpan delivery. What you see on TV is pretty close to what you get with him, and that is a big part of his appeal." Meanwhile, RJR's Sports Marketing Enterprises President Rick Sanders calls Jarrett the "Baby Boomer Special," and IMG/Muhleman Marketing President Max Muhleman anticipates Jarrett having a long shelf life as an endorser, saying Jarrett's "marketing career could outlast George Foreman's." Off the track, Jarrett is well-known for his work with charities. Campbell & Co.'s Greg Shea: "One of the areas where Dale takes it up a notch is his community service. Jarrett cares very little for the publicity he gets. But there's definitely a positive rub off on Dale's public image."

FINAL FIELD RUNDOWN: Michael Waltrip comes in at No. 6 on the survey, and Cox Marketing Group President Doug Cox said, "Most marketers could feel very comfortable placing him in various situations such as speaking in a boardroom, commercial spots, employee functions and direct fan contact." The No. 7 spot goes to Rusty Wallace. Phoenix Int'l Raceway's Sperber said Wallace "is one of NASCAR's established stars who still has tremendous appeal to fans. His enduring star status continues to be a constant that marketers can rely on when building a campaign." Ryan Newman ranks No. 8, and The Motorsports Decisions Group's Randall-Bauer said, "He has a somewhat shy guy image. He needs to have his brand built and some stronger marketing campaigns come from his sponsors. But there is a lot of potential." The No. 9 slot goes to Kyle Petty, and IMG Motorsports Senior VP & GM Denny Young said, "The Petty name still ranks high on all Q Ratings. Plus, Kyle is extremely articulate and is so focused on his charities." Veterans Mark Martin and Jeff Burton tie for the No. 10 spot. ESPN.com's Darren Rovell said of Martin's tie with Viagra, "It might sound strange, but there's no doubt that the Viagra cap is the coolest cap to wear for a general NASCAR fan with no allegiance." As for Burton, Williams said, "If he had solid publicity and public relations help behind him, he could move up the list and be one of the biggest names ever."

THE DAILY also asked our panel of experts to name an up-and-coming driver in terms of marketability. The following ten drivers were deemed as ones to watch.

Name Current Series
Jamie McMurray Winston Cup
Scott Riggs Busch Series
Kevin Harvick Winston Cup
Casey Mears Busch Series
Elliott Sadler Winston Cup
Brendan Gaughan Craftsman Trucks
Scott Wimmer Busch Series
Hank Parker Jr. Busch Series
Christian Fittipaldi Busch Series
Kurt Busch Winston Cup
 
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