Local News

Off The Track, Earnhardt Turned Name, Persona Into Multimillion-Dollar Business

Posted February 18, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST

— Dale Earnhardt will be remembered for his victories, his racing prowess and seven Winston Cup championships, but there was another side to him. Earnhardt was also a brilliant marketer and businessman.

Fans called Earnhardt the "Man in Black", the "Intimidator," and "One Tough Customer," while he was on the track. Off the track, Earnhardt made even more money, marketing his name, image and products.

"If you put it in marketing terms, Dale Earnhardt was a brand as well as a driver. As well as a human being, he was also a brand," says former RJR Marketing Manager Nat Walker.

The day after his death,e-Baybuyers asked top dollar for anything associated with Earnhardt.

Earnhardt had several major sponsors and many smaller ones. However, his marketing company made millions, selling everything from collector cars to sunglasses. Advertising executive Richard French works with Earnhardt's sponsors.

"He had a very passionate following and fan base and he leveraged that into a marketing machine that provided him quite a bit of income off the track," he says.

NASCAR has become a marketing-oriented sport, driven by big corporate sponsors. Earnhardt's death will diminish the sport he made his own.

"Replacing Richard Petty is an impossible thing to do. I mean you don't replace a Wayne Gretsky or a Michael Jordan, and you don't replace a Dale Earnhardt, and I think it's a loss for NASCAR," French says.