Commentary

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Races Into Retirement, Marketing

When Peyton Manning retired from the NFL after quarterbacking the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl 50, he did not fade from the public spotlight.

Among other endeavors, he hosted the ESPYs in July, has made appearances at NFL games and on broadcasts and has continued to appear in national marketing for such partners as Nationwide, Gatorade, DirecTV and Papa John’s.

Expect Dale Earnhardt Jr. to follow the same type of path.

Dale Jr. finished his career as a full-time Nascar driver in Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. But he will not drive off into the sunset.

He will be in the NBC broadcast booth next year during Monster Energy and Xfinity Series races.

He is co-owner for JR Motorsports, which has a team that competes in the Xfinity Series, where he will race in two events in 2018.

His alliance with NBCUniversal will also give him access to “a wide range of opportunities in the company’s media businesses,” including movies, TV and podcasts.

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NBC is also partnering with Earnhardt on some of his other businesses, including Dirty Mo Radio and Hammerhead Entertainment.

And, like Manning, he continues to appear in national marketing.

Many of his sponsors have aired retirement tributes, including Budweiser, Nationwide, Wrangler and Chevrolet.

But one campaign, from Mountain Dew, stands out in that it not only embraces humor (where the others went for tears) but looks to the future rather than the past.

“What's up, racing fans. I'm Dewey Ryder,” says Dewey Ryder (played by actor/comedian Danny McBride) in the first of two spots in what will be an on-going campaign. “Here to announce the biggest racing news since lug nuts. Me. The only person capable of filling Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s green fire suit when he retires ... the handsome new face of Mountain Dew.”

“No one can really replace Dale Jr., but we saw this as a way to acknowledge his retirement in a campaign that was true to Dale Jr. and true to the Mountain Dew attitude,” said Justin Faiber, senior manager of sports marketing at Pepsi, who is responsible for overseeing all North American Action Sports and Motorsports programs and executions for Mountain Dew.

“We have all seen amazing retirement spots. Derek Jeter. Peyton Manning. Jeff Gordon,” said Faiber. “Tear-jerkers with emotional feel. We wanted to do it with a Mountain Dew feel — with laughter. We are a brand that pushes boundaries and has a great time doing it.”

In a second spot, Dewey interrupts an exclusive interview between Earnhardt Jr. and ESPN’s Kenny Mayne. 

“He’s your replacement?” Mayne asks Earnhardt Jr. “He’s driving your car?”

“I don’t think so,” Dale Jr. says with a straight face.

Mayne then asks, “Did you get to pick your replacement?”

“Obviously not,” replies Earnhardt Jr. “To be honest, I don’t know where he came from.”

Faiber said the campaign, from lead agency BBDO NY, would continue into 2018, so there will be more of Earnhardt Jr. in his role as Dewey’s straight man.

“People want to know that athletes like Dale are authentic, They want to know that he’s not just selling a product but really speaking honestly to people,” said Faiber.

“For us, that is the Dew Brand. For him, that is the Dale Brand.”

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