IMG looks to double down with Danica and Dale Jr.

Danica Patrick’s representatives at IMG soon will be talking

to the brands endorsed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. as both camps seek

opportunities to combine the star power of the two drivers.

Even though Patrick’s move to NASCAR has been in the

works since the summer, she just last week signed to drive a dozen

or so Nationwide Series races for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports,

a team he co-owns with Rick Hendrick. She’ll continue to

drive a full Izod IndyCar Series schedule for Andretti Autosport.

“Now that there’s something real to talk about,

we can sit with (Earnhardt’s) partners to find the right

opportunities for both of them,” said Mark Dyer, senior vice

president, strategic planning and development at IMG, the agency

that represents Patrick and engineered her move to NASCAR. Dyer is

part of an IMG team that includes Alan Zucker, Patrick’s

agent from the client representation group; Tom Worcester from

business development; and Tom Knox from motorsports business

development. will be the primary sponsor on Patrick’s

No. 7 Chevrolet at JRM, and two other associate sponsorships are

close. Primary, full-season sponsorships in the Nationwide Series

run anywhere from $5 million to $7 million a year for the top


Go Daddy also sponsors Patrick in IndyCar, so the potential

for sponsor conflict has been limited so far. IndyCar primary

sponsorships run about the same as Nationwide team deals, in the

mid-to-high seven figures.

Additionally, Go Daddy is spending well into eight figures to

sponsor Mark Martin’s No. 5 Sprint Cup car for a majority of

the 36 races next year, bringing the total sponsorship spend for

the domain name provider to more than $20 million. That

doesn’t include Go Daddy’s significant media buy, which

will include two spots for Patrick ads in the Super Bowl.

Go Daddy also sponsored a JRM car last season and is expected

to have a relationship with Earnhardt this season.

As IMG and JRM work together to fill out the sponsorship on

her Nationwide Series car, the more compelling possibilities are

how Patrick might work together with Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most

popular driver for seven straight seasons. Earnhardt’s

co-primary sponsors are Pepsi’s Amp Energy and National

Guard, while he also endorses Nationwide Insurance, the title

sponsor of NASCAR’s No. 2 series. John Aman, associate vice

president of sponsorships for Nationwide, has said the insurance

giant is studying endorsement opportunities, which could play off

Patrick’s participation in the series or her ties with


“Absolutely” there will be opportunities, Dyer

said, for Patrick and Earnhardt to work together. “There are

a lot of brands within Pepsi, and Dale has his own affiliation with

Go Daddy and Nationwide as well.”

Just as interesting is the potential for a brand to pair

Patrick and Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley, the president of JRM

who negotiated the deal with IMG to bring Patrick to the team.

Kelley Earnhardt, like Patrick, is blazing trails as a woman in a

profession dominated by men.

“There are some great story lines there about Danica

coming to NASCAR and the female executive who helped bring her into

the sport,” Dyer said.

Other entities can’t wait to put Patrick’s star

power to use as well, given her perceived ability to drive ticket

sales and TV ratings, two areas that have slumped in recent years.

Chris Powell, president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is already

devising promotional possibilities that would incorporate Patrick

in a ticket-selling plan.

Patrick has not yet committed to a race schedule, but with

the Feb. 27 Las Vegas race the third event on the Nationwide Series

schedule—well before the March 14 season opener in

IndyCar—she is expected to include Vegas on her calendar.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for the sport,”

Powell said. “We’re hoping to create a promotion around

her appearance that will be exciting for fans and potentially

rewarding. What we hope is that a fan or fans will win something

based on where Danica finishes. Ever since there’s been talk

about her coming into NASCAR, we’ve been talking about ways

to leverage her presence and profile.”

Patrick, likewise, will figure heavily into ESPN’s

promotion of the Nationwide Series, which typically begins with a

brand campaign around late January, about three weeks before the

start of the season. ESPN2 carries most of the Nationwide Series

races, with some bouncing over to ESPN or ABC. Viewership for

NASCAR’s No. 2 series was down 12.7 percent in 2009,

averaging 1.8 million viewers for 35 races.

“Danica is one of the drivers who has proven she can

move the meter,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN’s vice

president, programming and acquisitions. “In 2005, we saw

significant increases in the Indy 500 when she was a rookie.

She’s a story that transcends the sport and has the power to

bring in different viewers. Casual fans will gravitate to this

story line. We see advantages across both of the series, Nationwide

and IndyCar.”

Dyer said the strategy with Patrick has been to position her

as a NASCAR driver, not solely a Nationwide Series driver. And

despite her partial schedule in NASCAR as she continues to compete

full time in IndyCar, “there will be the ability to market

with her yearlong,” Dyer said.

It remains to be seen where Peak, one of Danica’s

longest-running partners, will fit in on her Nationwide or IndyCar

car, but that relationship is expected to continue.