Have we seen last of Go Daddy and Danica?

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
3:23
PM ET
USA Today’s Bruce Horovitz writes that the Super Bowl could be without one of its biggest stars.

Caution lights are flashing for racing star Danica Patrick's lucrative gig with Go Daddy.

The advertising future of Go Daddy's go-to girl appears to be in limbo as Go Daddy is about to announce the hiring of a new ad agency, Deutsch NY, which will have freedom to drop the sexy racing star from the Web domain company's Super Bowl ad lineup.


If it happens, it’ll be quite the move for the website domain registry.

[+] EnlargeDanica Patrick
Art StreiberDanica Patrick is synonymous with Go Daddy.
According Go Daddy, their racy Super Bowl ads “have helped drive market share, over the last eight years, from 16 percent to more than 50 percent.”

Within 15 minutes of airing one Patrick ad in the 2011 Super Bowl, domain registrations on GoDaddy.com were up 466 percent over the previous year, the firm said. Following the two ads featuring Patrick during the last Super Bowl, Go Daddy set a Sunday sales record and broke its one-day mark for mobile website traffic.

Patrick is eminently recognizable: In the annual poll conducted by Q Scores, more than three-quarters of all sports were familiar with Patrick, much higher than the 48 percent average for all active and retired race car drivers. Patrick also rates as one of the top female athletes in terms of consumer awareness.

Patrick has appeared in Super Bowl ads for Go Daddy since 2007. The question now is whether she’s run her course or if she’s become synonymous with the brand’s Super Bowl ads in the way the Clydesdales have with Budweiser or the polar bears with Coca-Cola.

“I’m not sure they’ve reached the iconic status,” said Jim Andrews, IEG's senior vice president for content strategy, “and part of that may have been the execution of those ads, because they’re relatively all the same.”

However, Andrews thinks there’s value in keeping Patrick on board and allowing her to mature with the brand’s message.

“They could say they’re going to refocus and talk about her as someone who’s broken barriers for women and done incredible things in terms of her performance in business. I think they’d get a lot of credit for sticking with her but using her in a different way that would appeal, if not to more people, than to a different group of people.”

Ann Bastianelli, a senior lecturer of marketing at Indiana University, sees the situation a little differently: “She was a fascination when they first signed her on. She was the first gal who looked like she could win the Indy 500 first race … and she happened to be gorgeous. Over time the bloom is off the rose.”

Although Patrick rated highly in terms of familiarity in the latest poll from Q Scores, her positive Q score, which measures likability, dropped a few points this year. It’s down 10 points since 2010, but Q Scores executive vice president Henry Schafer says even the lower score keeps her average compared to other athletes.

The Deutsch NY deal is just for the Super Bowl ads, so the announcement didn't cover Go Daddy's other business involvement with Patrick.

Bastianelli believes Go Daddy’s business and communications objectives have changed now that there’s better awareness of the company. While Patrick and the racy ads were great attention grabbers when no one had ever heard of Go Daddy, Bastianelli doesn’t think she serves their goals any longer.

“They have to go get small-business owners. Deutsch is probably thinking she’s not the right way to get those folks. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they sort of set that aside.”

If Go Daddy is going to begin to move away from Patrick, Bastianelli says the time is now.

“The longer they use Danica, the harder it will be to disconnect from that and connect to a more relevant message.”

Kristi Dosh

Sports Business
Dosh covers sports business for ESPN. She is an attorney, founder of BusinessOfCollegeSports.com, and joined ESPN in October 2011.
Author of "Saturday Millionaires: How winning football builds winning colleges."

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