SBJ/May 15-21, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

WME lands Earnhardt’s business

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There’s little that NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t done in the business side of sports, but one thing lacking was outside representation. As his retirement from full-time driving beckons, though, that’s about to change.

After an extensive review, Earnhardt has signed a deal with WME, which his current management team hopes will help him capitalize on his brand in ways they can’t.

The deal, which will see WME assist Earnhardt in his various off-track business ventures, will be announced this week but already started quietly in the last few weeks.

“We’ve been looking at what life looks like after racing, and Dale has sort of been getting straight in his head with that, too. We’ve done his representation in house for so many years — and Dale and I had that conversation about, ‘What would outside representation look like?’” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owner, vice president and general manager of JR Motorsports, the NASCAR Xfinity Series team she co-owns alongside Earnhardt and auto titan Rick Hendrick. “Through the interview process, [Earnhardt’s team learned that]there’s a lot more out there that my group doesn’t touch. The main thing to me is just the contacts and the Rolodex that they bring.”

This is Earnhardt’s final year in NASCAR’s top series.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Earnhardt’s internal team — which also includes Mike Davis, managing director of brand and digital media, and Tony Mayhoff, director of brand marketing and partnerships — will continue to manage Earnhardt’s many businesses. But WME will consult on how to increase existing revenue streams and help the 42-year-old build new ones.

Earnhardt’s team decided about a year ago to look into outside representation and requested proposals from agencies that would help them do a full review of his brand for the first time. But after speaking with three finalists and landing on WME, Earnhardt’s team decided to expand upon the brand review and make the partnership more comprehensive.

The structure of the relationship is based off of commission, and the financial split from new deals will be figured out on a case-by-case basis, Earnhardt’s team said.

WME declined to comment.

Earnhardt announced late last month that he will retire from full-time racing in NASCAR’s top series after this year, although he plans to occasionally race on other levels. But Earnhardt Miller, a 2015 SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer recipient and sister of the driver, said the timing of that announcement and this one are coincidental. Earnhardt last week announced he and his wife, Amy, will be part of a special four-part home-improvement series on the DIY Network next year, but that deal was set up prior to the WME relationship. With the twilight of his career starting to come into focus in recent years, Earnhardt’s team was going to sign an agency this year to prepare for his post-racing days no matter how much longer he competed, she added.

Nonetheless, Earnhardt’s team said the timing is fortuitous from the standpoint that WME is deeply connected in areas Earnhardt may want to pursue, including broadcasting.

His current business interests include JR Motorsports; the Whiskey River nightclub chain; Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet dealerships; the Dirty Mo Media network; Hammerhead Entertainment video production company; and the Dale Jr. Foundation charitable arm.

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