DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows his name carries some weight in the marketing world, and even in his retirement from driving, companies will ask him to endorse their products.
He will choose carefully. And he’ll hesitate even more when discussion includes references to his father, the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion who died in the 2001 Daytona 500.
“Part of me is very proud of my family history, proud of my dad,” Earnhardt said last week. “There’s another part of me that feels some sort of obligation to tell that story. But it has to be done in the proper way where I don’t feel like I’m abusing that relationship.
“I know that I have every right to [take advantage of that relationship]. But at the same time, I want to be tasteful, respectful and all I ever wanted to do was add to his legacy and wanted to continue to do that.”
Goodyear released a television commercial Wednesday that focuses on Earnhardt and his family heritage. Doing it was one of the easier decisions for Earnhardt, as it included the song “I Got A Name” and had footage of them racing each other in NASCAR as well as older footage of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I’m not hurting for money — it’s not like I need to do these deals for any financial gain,” Earnhardt said. “I just make sure the message, if we do include Earnhardt history and talk about Dad, it has got to be done in a proper manner for me to be comfortable doing it.”
The proper manner often includes old footage or tributes to his father.
“I like to tell the story,” Earnhardt said. “It makes for a good story. It makes sense to me with Goodyear because he was a big fan of Goodyear. … He would be right there beside me if he could, telling the same story.”
Singing “I Got A Name” in the ad is A.J. Croce, whose father, Jim, originally recorded the song months before dying in a plane crash in 1973. Goodyear could have just paid royalties for the rights to the song (Jim Croce didn’t write the song) but had the idea to mix the Earnhardt and Croce family legacies in the ad.
Croce said he likes to live in the present, but doing this in correlation with Earnhardt’s similar personal story made sense.
“[The song] was a posthumous success, so it was meaningful in a lot of ways and the fact they wanted me to do my own version of it was special,” Croce said. “It made perfect sense.”
For Earnhardt, he will continue to look for special relationships. He needs sponsors for the cars JR Motorsports runs, but in a post-driving world, Earnhardt’s attitude toward personal services deals could be a little different.
“I thought when you’re racing, driving cars, you’re partnering yourself with whoever can help you fund that process,” Earnhardt said. “A lot of things that a lot of drivers do are directly related to the funding and sponsorship of the race team.
“If you are doing a personal services agreement, you definitely, every time you get presented with an opportunity, you have to ask yourself whether it aligns with your brand, your message.”
Goodyear and Nationwide are among the partners who have continued to work with Earnhardt, who said it has been a lot of fun exploring endorsement opportunities in life after racing.
“When we first started to move out of the car, we started to meet with all our current partners and trying to understand who might want to continue their relationship with us and how they want to use us and how that relationship looks out of the race car,” Earnhardt said.
“We wanted to continue to take care of the people who were taking care of us.”