SBD/February 24, 2012/NASCAR Season Preview

NASCAR Stands To Gain From Danica Patrick's Move From IndyCar

Patrick comes into NASCAR with her own corporate backing
NASCAR this season stands to “benefit big time” from Danica Patrick’s move from the Izod IndyCar Series to a full-time Nationwide and part-time Sprint Cup schedule, according to Holly Cain of FOXSPORTS.com. NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, “There is no doubt that the series is healthier with her in it. It’s taking a positive, and making it better.” Cain noted in a time when corporate America is “tightening its sponsorship purse strings and attendance and television ratings have been sagging, Patrick’s presence could translate into a well-timed economic spark for the sport.” Phelps anticipates a “healthy spike in merchandise sales and fully expects Patrick to be among the top 10 in driver-licensed merchandise.” Her sponsor Go Daddy “isn’t just investing in car sponsorship but also buying up TV commercial time.” Phelps: “She is essentially providing her own fan base to us -- driving eyeballs and a new audience to NASCAR. And our hope is these people will stay with us even long after she retires from NASCAR.” NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won last year's Nationwide Series championship, said, “It’s a win-win no matter what. When you have more people showing up for the races, you have more people tuning in on TV. Sponsors like to see that” (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/22). In Miami, David Neal noted NASCAR hopes Patrick “brings her vast popularity over from IndyCar, where only one win in seven seasons didn’t prevent her from being a fan favorite.” Her willingness to “occasionally confront other drivers after on-track dustups puts her right in line with the settle-it-behind-the-barn attitude old-school NASCAR fans often say they miss from modern drivers” (MIAMI HERALD, 2/19). NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson: “We need people tuned in and watching and she brings in a lot of new fans. She has been able to get our sport onto a different platform, with mainstream media and things that she is involved with outside of racing. I’m excited about it” (SCENEDAILY.com, 2/23). 

DANICA INC.: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel noted Patrick will become the “highest-profile female (and just third ever) to enter the Daytona 500,” and the bonus for NASCAR is that “in a circuit that has seen sponsors drop out in recent years, Patrick comes with her own corporate backing.” Go Daddy will serve as a "presenting sponsor for Saturday’s Nationwide broadcast” in addition to being Patrick's primary sponsor in the Daytona 500. Go Daddy Founder Bob Parsons said, “I did not sponsor Danica because I wanted to get into racing. I got into racing because I wanted to sponsor Danica. If it wasn’t for Danica, I’m not sure I’d be involved in racing.” Wetzel noted Patrick’s “suggestive, campy and often-ridiculous commercials for GoDaddy.com aren’t much for cinematic genius.” However, they have been “wildly successful for the company, and the secret may be that Patrick is known to rewrite jokes, suggest gags and even go through takes where she doesn’t know what’s coming.” Patrick said that she “loves the challenge of coming up with the advertisement and the fact GoDaddy is so willing to listen to her input" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/23). USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan in a front page cover story notes Patrick could likely become the Nationwide Series' “highest-finishing woman ever,” and that would be a “boon to her 'Beautiful Revolution' brand created by IMG." Patrick said, “It’s about being different and unique and doing something that’s never been done before, but doing it as a girl and looking good while doing it. And it being a really beautiful thing that it’s happening.” Patrick’s current and future endeavors are “more pristine than the risque ad campaigns of Go Daddy.” GMR Marketing VP/Business Development Jimmy Bruns said, “Even though Go Daddy tends to push the boundaries a little in their marketing, I never got the sense that she crossed the line or puts NASCAR or herself in a bad light” (USA TODAY, 2/24).

HANGING WITH THE BIG BOYS: FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen reported Patrick's move to NASCAR "will add millions" to her annual earnings, and "should put her among the sports' top earners." Her $12M income last year "ranks eighth among" NASCAR drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR's "highest-paid driver for the fourth straight year," earning $28M in '11 thanks to the "highest licensing income in the sport and a host of personal endorsements with the likes of Wrangler, Chevrolet and Dollar General." The second-highest-paid driver in NASCAR is Jeff Gordon, who made $24M. Badenahusen noted all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- Earnhardt, Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne -- were "among the top 10 drivers in earnings." Defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart last year earned $6.6M in winnings and $6.1M in Sprint Cup bonuses for his title, which "sparked buying Stewart swag and he ranked behind only Dale Jr. for merchandise sales" (FORBES.com, 2/22).
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