GoDaddy Founder & CEO Bob Parsons said that he expects driver Danica Patrick "to make the move full-time to NASCAR next season," according to Terry Blount of ESPN.com. Sources indicated that Patrick is "working on a plan to race full-time in the Nationwide Series" in '12 and move to the Sprint Cup Series in '13. Parsons said, "She hasn't told me she will, but I believe she will and we'll be ready. Here's the fact: She loves (NASCAR), it's much more exciting than IndyCar, with all due respect, and the TV audience for NASCAR is off the hook." He emphasized that he "is behind her whatever decision she makes." Parsons: "As long as I can stroke the check. I tell you what, she doesn't exactly work for minimum wage. I usually don't get into that too much until the decision's been made. But I've told her I would sponsor her if she started ice skating." Parsons noted that GoDaddy's market share "has tripled from $300 million to $1.1 billion in sales since his company started backing Patrick" in '05. He added, "She's edgy like we are, and a little inappropriate like we are. But you notice whenever we do a commercial, she's always the hero. She's never the brunt of the joke. And her recognition is off the hook. She's perfect for GoDaddy" (ESPN.com, 5/29). More Parsons: "My guess is, if she moves to NASCAR, she'll do whatever she can to run in an (IndyCar) race before the Indianapolis 500 and to run in the 500. I will be floored if she didn't" (USA TODAY, 6/1).
Marketing and Sponsorship
After winning the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Dan Wheldon "could be one and done" because the driver has "no ride lined up" for the rest of the Izod IndyCar Series season, according to Michael Marot of the AP. Wheldon's contract with Bryan Herta Autosport to drive in the IndyCar Series expired at the end of Sunday, and there is "no guarantee Herta or Wheldon will compete again on the IndyCar circuit this season." Herta's strategy was to "run one race, Indy, then build its way into a full-time IndyCar team in 2012, a route he might still take." But Wheldon's win "has changed things a bit." Herta on Monday said that he is "already fielding some inquiries from businesses interested in working with the winning team and winning driver" from the Indy 500. Herta: "There could be some opportunities created for us to continue. I'm sure that Dan will get some opportunities, and my hope is we'll be able to work together later this year." Still, the 32-year-old Wheldon said, "I'm pretty sure no Formula One team is going to look at me because I'm getting a little older. Honestly, I have to evaluate all of my options now because I don't have a contract and I still feel like I've got some left in me" (AP, 5/30). Wheldon said that he believes Herta "would be willing to run more races this year," including the next IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, "if proper funding could be secured and the car could be prepared to run competitively." But he added, "Bryan is not just going to do it to do it. He wants to do it right" (AP, 5/31). FOXSPORTS.com's Holly Cain noted Wheldon is now a two-time winner of the Indy 500 and asked, "How is it even possible that someone this talented and marketable is without a ride?" Cain: "Surely there is a sponsor that would step up now and fund a team that is more competitive and, therefore more deserving of a starting position than half of the current field" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/31).
THE JEAN POOL: Designer clothing brand William Rast sponsored Wheldon's No. 98 car, and Wheldon did not forget his sponsor immediately after winning the race. He said in Victory Lane, "Totally my style. It’s a great sponsor for me. I feel like a fashionista. I’m going to be wearing jeans tomorrow night (to the Indy 500 banquet). I know I’m supposed to dress up, but I’m going to be wearing William Rast jeans" ("Indianapolis 500," ABC, 5/29).
WHEELS OF FORTUNE: In Indianapolis, Heather Gillers reported a Hot Wheels promotion prior to the running of the Indianapolis 500 saw a car "sail a record-breaking 332 feet through the air." Hot Wheels spent more than $1M on a "life-size yellow Hot Wheels car and a ten-story high orange ramp" (INDYSTAR.com, 5/29). IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, "I'm a big believer that you have to give fans a great experience and you do that with excitement and value. This is not some fly-by-night operation. (Hot Wheels parent) Mattel has invested millions of dollars, and I think it can deliver a little younger demographic." For Hot Wheels, the "hope is that stunts will add older buyers to a market traditionally reserved for children," and the investment "also means Hot Wheels is looking to do more than one show." Mattel VP/Marketing Simon Waldron: "It's definitely captured the interest of other sports tours where they have motorcycles performing, BMX, that kind of stuff" (AP, 5/29).
Despite leading the Mavericks to the NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki “is unlikely to become a highly pursued pitchman,” according to Cheryl Hall of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Data from The Marketing Arm shows that “nearly two-thirds of American consumers still don’t recognize” Nowitzki, even after his “stellar performance in the Western Conference playoffs.” The Marketing Arm Dir of Agency Communications Chris Anderson said, "Here's arguably one of the top 10 basketball players in the world, yet he’s known by less than 40 percent of U.S. consumers.” Nowitzki is “practically invisible" compared to Heat F LeBron James, who is recognized by eight of 10 consumers, and even Mavericks G Jason Kidd "scores higher, with nearly half of consumers knowing who he is." Hall notes Nowitzki’s performance in the Finals “might yield endorsement opportunities, especially locally." But Anderson said, "Will he become the next Michael Jordan or Shaquille O’Neal? No. And that’s probably just fine with Dirk.” Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington: “Dirk is an interesting pro athlete. He’s more than happy to help out the Mavs in their ticket campaigns or promotions. He’ll do all sorts of goofy stuff. He’s clever and playful by nature. But he doesn’t care for publicity.” Sherrington also noted that “not many foreign-born athletes from non-English-speaking countries have made it big as pitchmen.” Still, while Nowitzki may not be "as well-known as LeBron, he’s better liked." More than 80% of U.S. consumers "who know of Nowitzki like him to some degree," compared to 68% who "feel any warmth toward James” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/1).
MR. POPULAR: Mavericks G J.J. Barea said that he is "getting more endorsement deals now,” in part because of his postseason play. Barea has been endorsing T-Moblie in his native Puerto Rico for the past year. When asked if he is the Dwyane Wade of T-Mobile in Puerto Rico, Barea said, “Yeah. Bigger, though” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/1).
The Indians have signed a one-year sponsorship deal with BP, with the oil giant replacing Shell as the club's official fuel provider. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the BP-Indians pact is for the rest of the '11 season with two subsequent option years. BP will run an Indians-themed retail promotion this summer in which customers purchasing 10 gallons or more of gas at about 215 Northeast Ohio BP locations will receive a scratch-off ticket with a ticket code. Fans registering five such codes at BPIndiansBaseball.com then receive a password good for two free mezzanine-level tickets at Progressive Field. Other assets in the deal include ballpark signage, radio inventory and exclusive naming rights to the Indians' batting practice. The batting practice component will also involve BP-sponsored fan giveaways of VIP experiences that include on-field access and special gift bags. BP has targeted sports as a key tool in its post-disaster corporate marketing following last year's historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and to that end increased activation this year of its title sponsorship of the Crosstown Cup in Chicago with the Cubs and White Sox.
Under Armour is “looking to up its game -- and expand its business -- with zebra-print leggings for women and graphic T-shirts with slogans such as ‘Rain. Snow. Sleet. Wind. Brave the Run,’" according to Andrea Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Under Armour's “reach for fashion fame is intended to build on its market strength among hardcore athletes.” The company is “recruiting talent from the nation's top fashion design schools and taking greater fashion risks to modernize its vision.” Analysts said that if Under Armour "wants to be a true powerhouse, it has to make its gear attractive beyond the locker room.” Under Armour's “newest ‘look book,’ which previews the offerings this fall, features gym bags that look like designer purses and colorful puffer vests that might be worn casually on a brisk day.” There are “tops in the latest fashion trends that could be worn straight from the gym to an afternoon trip to the mall.” Baltimore-based ad firm TBC Exec VP & Managing Dir Howe Burch: "The thing with fashion is that it is a slippery slope. What is in fashion one day may not be the next day.” Under Armour Senior Creative Dir of Women’s & Youth Apparel Noreen Naroo-Pucci said, "Ultimately, we will never compromise the performance aspect of what we offer." Walker noted the company “wants to grow its women's business to be larger than the men's side.” Industry research has found that “women care more about what they look like when working out” (Baltimore SUN, 5/31).
ADIDAS BANKING ON OLYMPICS FOR U.K. BOOST: In London, James Hall noted Nike is “currently market leader” in the U.K. with an 18% share of the almost US$7.1B sportswear market. adidas is in second place with a 15% share, but “hopes that its status as official sportswear partner” of the ‘12 London Games “will help it achieve its goal of overtaking Nike by 2015 at the latest.” adidas, in addition to providing the apparel for 25 of the 26 Olympic sports, will also dress the Olympic volunteers, "provide the outfits for the pre-games torch relay and create clothing for the athletes to wear in the Olympic Village.” adidas is also the LOCOG “official clothing licensee, and will sell Olympic-themed and branded clothes through its own stores and third-party retailers.” adidas Group Chair & CEO Herbert Hainer said that the company “is hoping to achieve sales of [US$165M] from its Olympic clothing lines.” The company will “bolster its marketing throughout the UK in the run-up to the Games by opening 100 temporary ‘AdiZones’ -- areas that will include free-to-use tennis, football or basketball equipment.” adidas Managing Dir of Market North Gil Steyaert: “We like to believe we will be the cool brand of the Games." Steyaert said that adidas hopes to “knock Nike off its perch in the UK,” but Hall noted the company must “beat Nike in London, where it is the top sports brand by some distance.” Steyaert said that adidas is the “most popular brand in certain areas of the north of England, such as Liverpool.” But adidas “must win London if it wants total dominance.” adidas “has invested around” US$165M in the ‘12 London Games (London TELEGRAPH, 5/30).
SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass reported NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler is "suing Richard Petty Motorsports for an unspecified amount of money, claiming in court documents that his former team is withholding a payment to him because it is wrongly accusing him of influencing Hunt Brothers Pizza to leave RPM and sponsor him at Kevin Harvick Inc." The lawsuit, filed against RPM's new ownership group, alleges that Sadler "has a separation agreement with the new owners of RPM that require payments to him." That agreement had a "non-solicitation provision and RPM alleged that Sadler violated it after Hunt Brothers, which sponsored Sadler in 2010, announced it was sponsoring him and driver Kevin Harvick at KHI this year." Sadler's contract with the former owners of RPM -- the Gillett family -- "ran out at the end of last year" (SCENEDAILY.com, 5/31).
WHAT'S IN STORE? AD AGE's Neff & Schultz report after spending "millions in advance on multibrand, in-store promotional deals" with the NFL, several league sponsors -- including Procter & Gamble, Mars and PepsiCo -- "find themselves faced with the possibility of a truncated season that could do more damage to their plans and brands than those of the networks and TV buyers." In-store events "have calendars set a year or more in advance," and product "has to be produced and displays have to be filled, regardless of whether games get played." Snickers is "plowing ahead with its in-store promotion plans." But Mars Chocolate North America Chief Consumer Officer Debra Sandler said the brand could "scale back a few accounts." Jason Dial, who was Dir of Global Sports Marketing for Procter & Gamble when it reached its current agreement with the NFL, said that the company "was aware of the potential for a labor dispute when it negotiated its deal" (AD AGE, 5/30 issue).
TRY THIS ON FOR SIZE: N.Y.-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. yesterday announced that it is acquiring Academy Sports + Outdoors. The purchase price was not disclosed, and the deal is "expected to close in six to eight weeks." Academy President Rodney Faldyn said that the retailer's goal is "to make the ownership transition seamless for customers by maintaining the same selection, pricing and customer service" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/1).
SHOW YOU CARE: AdvoCare Int'l has signed on to title sponsor the fall NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The multiyear deal, which goes into effect for this year's race on Sept. 4, also makes the Texas-based company the official performance elite products of AMS (THE DAILY).