Danica, Earnhardt Jr. to pair in ad campaigns

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It’s clear now that IMG is in full control of the brand that is Danica Patrick. That means her profile is likely to go even higher than it is now, and she could eventually end up in a commercial with a certain quarterback with a laser rocket arm.
The powerful athlete marketing firm engineered her move to NASCAR, sources told IBJ, and now they are aligning Patrick with sponsors who power Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earlier this month, Patrick signed to drive a dozen or so NASCAR Nationwide Series races in 2010 for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Junior and Rick Hendrick.

Patrick’s entry into the sport is being carefully orchestrated—her debut was steered from Daytona Feb. 13 where she could get clobbered racing bumper to bumper with NASCAR’s stars, to the race in Fontana, Calif. the following week.

IMG is laying out Patrick’s marketing path with equal care. IMG Senior Vice President Mark Dyer has begun meeting with Earnhardt’s sponsors to see where cross promotion might work. IMG officials think they can boost Earnhardt’s and Patrick’s careers by pairing them in advertising and marketing campaigns.

Earnhardt’s primary sponsors are Pepsi’s Amp Energy Drink, National Guard and Nationwide Insurance. Dyer said there’s a possibility that Patrick could be involved in any of those campaigns, but noted that some of the Pepsi brands might offer the most potential for a Patrick-Earnhardt pairing. Patrick recently said she’d like to be a “Pepsi girl.”

Dyer said there’s also interest in pairing Patrick with Junior’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt, JR Motorsports’ president, who like Patrick is seen as something of a female trailblazer in a male-dominated business. Kelley Earnhardt negotiated the deal with IMG to bring Patrick to the NASCAR team.

ESPN is planning to use Patrick heavily in the promotion of the Nationwide Series, which the cable network airs. That campaign is expected to launch in late January. ESPN/ABC is eager to boost Nationwide TV ratings, which were down 12.7 percent last season.

IMG could also look at an interesting cross-promotion for Patrick. Alan Zucker, Patrick’s IMG agent, also represents Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. IMG officials said all possibilities are being considered.

While sports marketers question how much followers of the two high-profile athletes overlap demographically, they admit there would be intrigue in pairing the two in an ad campaign. Manning’s versatility and trademark humorous ads could fit well with Patrick’s edgy brand, sports marketers added.

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