- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Danica Patrick is the pole winner at the Daytona 500, and while some still question whether she can ever win consistently (she has won one race in 184 starts in IndyCar, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races), it's clear she's far from a publicity stunt. It's also clear she is still extremely marketable. She has a wide range of endorsement deals from the likes of Go Daddy to Hot Wheels to Nationwide Insurance.
According to a recent Davie Brown Index poll, people think that she has the endorsement potential of George Clooney, Michael Strahan and Justin Timberlake. That she's as much of a trendsetter as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and as influential as LeBron James. Pretty startling data. I sat down with Patrick to talk about her marketing rise in recent years.
Rovell: Last time we talked, I was asking how you felt about being compared to Anna Kournikova. I don't think you're getting that as much anymore.
Patrick: I do think the line of questioning has changed from that to being about me against other women to a lot more questions about my place as a woman in sports.
Rovell: You have endorsement deals with a lot of companies, but Go Daddy has been the steady one since 2006. You've been in the Super Bowl spots for the company for seven straight years, a record run for any celebrity in the big game. What has it been like to have a long-tenured sponsor that has really been very successful (65 percent of the company sold to a private equity firm for $2.25 billion a couple years ago)?
Patrick: It has been really rewarding, and I'm so proud of them. They are so media-savvy, and to think the commercials that I have been in have played even a small part in their success is amazing. To see a guy like Bob Parsons, who had sold Parsons Technology for $65 million and was down to his last few million dollars, stick with his gut and build this multibillion[-dollar] business is great.
Rovell: Your fans are very diverse. You have women who look up to you and you have men who stare at you. How has that helped you in the marketing world?
Patrick: I do think that's what makes me attractive -- the diversity in my fan base. I feel like I also appeal to the underdogs, and there are a lot of us out there.
Rovell: But who you appeal to is also genuinely a mix of who you are.
Patrick: It's definitely authentic. I'm obviously in and around cars and I need my Peak Antifreeze [a sponsor] and I'm also doing all the girly things and so I need my OPI Nail Polish [a sponsor]. I think my business people from IMG to the folks at Danica Racing have done a good job at matching up my life around cars with my girly side off of it.
Rovell: If you could endorse a category of products that you haven't done yet, what would it be?
Patrick: Definitely beauty. I just got the nail polish deal with OPI and I love it. I put it on three weeks ago and it still looks good even after getting sandblasted on the beach. But I'd like to do more in the health and beauty category.
Rovell: You're in the process of divorcing your husband and you've picked a new man in fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. So you were OK with having a relationship on the track?
Patrick: When things ended with my soon-to-be ex-husband, I was of course sad. I did what I could to get through it and I found happiness, so I wasn't as concerned with what others would think.
Rovell: You finished third and fourth in the Indy 500; you're now on the pole at Daytona. What type of pressure do you feel?
Patrick: I put more pressure on myself when there are more expectations. We have a fast car here, and I don't want to let people down. I want to bring it home for every person working with me and finish in Victory Lane, where the car deserves to be.