Commentary

Danica scores big in Super Bowl ads

Updated: February 7, 2012, 8:31 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Danica Patrick was on stage for a promotion at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s downtown nightclub last week when a fan shouted, "Hey, Danica! Turn around!"

Patrick playfully spun her 5-foot-2 frame around, then kicked her hip out ever so slightly to display an asset NASCAR drivers normally don't share with fans.

"Well, I am a Go Daddy girl," she said.

[+] EnlargeDanica Patrick
Steve Granitz/Getty ImagesDanica Patrick stole some of Bella's spotlight on the red carpet at the "Twilight" premiere in November 2011.

Men and women in the Whisky River crowd howled. Patrick hammed it up even more during a question-and-answer segment, asking one of the male participants to turn around for her.

Her connection with the crowd was show-stopping.

"It was almost in the Richard Petty mode," said Doug Rice, the president of Performance Racing Network, who emceed the event. "The King has a way of connecting with fans and making them feel 100 percent at ease. So does she."

Patrick creates excitement wherever she goes these days. Her move to NASCAR full-time is expanding her exposure well beyond what she was used to in the IndyCar Series.

On Sunday, NASCAR will benefit from Patrick's popularity when she appears in two GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercials, giving her the unofficial distinction of being in more Super Bowl ads (10) than any other celebrity.

You won't see Patrick in a stock car, but the sport will benefit because she's associated with driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series as much as she is with those edgy, sexy commercials.

"Any time our sport is presented to new audiences on a broad scale, it is great for NASCAR," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer.

The Super Bowl commercials give Patrick and the sport a bigger audience than it will have all season. The Nielsen Co. said 111 million people watched last year's game at any given time.

That Patrick likely will be the only NASCAR driver featured during the three-hour-plus telecast speaks volumes.

"She's the whole package deal," said Barb Rechterman, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Go Daddy. "With her, the pieces come together pretty well. She's competitive, she's a race car driver and she's got a commercial side of her where she can peel off a little bit and show more of her feminine side."

Let The Fun Begin

You don't have to wait until Sunday to see every Super Bowl commercial, including the Go Daddy "Body Paint" ad featuring Danica Patrick and her Go Daddy sidekick Jillian Michaels. Here's a sneak peek ... Kelley Carter »

The new Super Bowl commercials definitely show that. In the "Body Paint" ad, Patrick is featured with fellow Go Daddy girl Jillian Michaels and seemingly nude Colombian model Natalie Velez. Patrick is wearing 4-inch stilettos, a tight black skirt and a black leather Go Daddy jacket.

In other words, an outfit you'd fortunately never see Cup boss Tony Stewart or Nationwide boss Earnhardt wearing.

Yes, sex still sells.

Patrick opens the commercial painting a message on Velez and saying, "This sure is a crazy way to draw attention to dot-co [.Co] domains from Go Daddy."

"Who will notice a hot model in body paint?" Michaels responds.

The commercial ends with the camera carefully scanning Velez's body and Patrick saying, "I think we missed a spot."

"Spots," Michaels says.

In the other commercial called "Cloud," you'll get to see Patrick dance -- again, better than the imagery of Stewart shaking his booty.

"Yes, I dance," Patrick said. "And I'll say this, the dance sequence is as Go Daddy-esque as it gets!"

The commercials are certain to draw attention, which means Patrick draws attention, which means NASCAR draws attention. Because the NASCAR audience is much larger than what Patrick experienced in the IndyCar Series, it's a win-win for everybody.

[+] EnlargeDanica Patrick
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesDanica Patrick's NASCAR fans come in all shapes and sizes.

How much larger? According to Go Daddy, the potential draw for a NASCAR televised event is 71 million, compared to 19 million for IndyCar.

"Whether she loses or is middle of the pack, she draws attention to her cars because she's a female in a male-dominated sport," Rechterman said. "So yeah, it's broader for us, and we are excited to have her."

So is NASCAR. Patrick has a polarizing effect on fans similar to that of Earnhardt. It's more about what she represents than what she does on the track.

Earnhardt to many represents the legacy of his father. Patrick to many represents a hope that a female can succeed in a man's world.

"Having her in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series will help draw casual fans for the sport," Phelps said. "That will create opportunities to promote our style of racing and other great personalities in the sport."

If you question the power of Patrick, just look at the numbers in the Davie Brown Index, which measures a celebrity's ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent. Before Patrick climbed into a stock car, she trailed only four-time champion Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt. They remain the only drivers she trails.

Of the 2,200 celebrities in the DBI, Patrick ranks 330 in endorsements, putting her in the range of Magic Johnson, Kelly Ripa and Bruce Willis. She ranks 400 in influence, putting her in line with Tony Romo, Madonna and Kevin Durant.

She ranks 402 in trendsetters, which ranks with Kim Kardashian, Patrick Dempsey, Kirsten Dunst and Albert Pujols.

Patrick is known by almost 70 percent of all U.S. consumers, and of those, 84 percent like her to some degree.

The Super Bowl commercials also reflect Patrick's popularity. In 2006, Go Daddy earned a 32 percent market share of new domain names from its commercials. In 2007, the first year Patrick appeared in them, the percentage rose to 42 percent.

It's now at 53 percent.

And there don't appear to be many limits on what Patrick will do in the commercials, although there is a limit to what the networks will allow. The 2009 "Exposure" commercial featuring Patrick holding a live beaver and playing off a Britney Spears mishap you might have heard about was banned.

She's the whole package deal. With her, the pieces come together pretty well. She's competitive, she's a race car driver and she's got a commercial side of her where she can peel off a little bit and show more of her feminine side.

-- Go Daddy's Barb Rechterman

But Patrick was game for the filming. The only request she's turned down came a couple of years ago when she was asked to wear a tiny red bikini.

"She is very comfortable in working with us on the creative content of our commercials," Rechterman said. "She has a lot of fun with it."

So you can see why NASCAR is excited about having Patrick in Super Bowl commercials, and why Go Daddy is excited to have NASCAR to carry the momentum of the commercials for the next 10 months.

"It's definitely obvious that NASCAR has a really big platform and there's a big following," Patrick said during last week's media tour. "Between promoting the Nationwide Series and all of its drivers and Stewart-Haas' media day, I've never seen so much media concentrated in one space in all of my life.

"It's always fun when you think people care about what you're doing and pay attention. It's nice to come to events where there's good turnout."

But Patrick didn't go to NASCAR just for the attention, any more than she appears in commercials just for the exposure. She'd trade all the attention for a win. It's her competitive nature.

"I can confidently tell you the reason I came over here was because of the cars and racing," Patrick said. "If I wanted to come for the platform and the bigger base of all kinds of different things, I would have done it a lot earlier, because those opportunities were there and the interest was there."

Now that Patrick has the best of both worlds, those around her will capitalize. Perhaps that's why NASCAR stretched its rules allowing Stewart-Haas Racing to form an alliance with Tommy Baldwin Racing to guarantee Patrick a starting spot in the Daytona 500.

After all, the 500 is NASCAR's Super Bowl, and there's no better commercial for the sport than to ensure Patrick is in it.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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