It took 50 starts, but Danica Patrick was confident she’d eventually win a race and would not become known as the Anna Kournikova of auto racing.
Now that she won the Indy Japan 300 – becoming the first woman to win an open-wheel race -- will the Indy Racing League’s most marketable star be even more marketable?
After all, her sponsor roster includes Tissot, GoDaddy.com, Motorola, and she appeared in a bikini in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. AirTran capitalized immediately with a commemorative plane called “AirTranica Won” – that bears her photo and is expected to be on planes through the IRL season.
Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Partners in San Francisco, says her first win could be worth at least $1 million more.
“Her current marketing partners will spend more on her, and new companies who may have discounted her driving talents will now consider her more seriously,” Dorfman said. “This opens her up to more performance-based products, as well as any advertiser to women with an ‘achieve your dreams’ message. It means a marketing portfolio that’s less cheesecake, and more blue chip.”
But Mike Bartelli, president of motorsports for Millsport, isn’t convinced the win will do much more for Patrick or the IRL.
"I believe it will help her marketability some, but given that her success off the track these last few years has been disproportionate to her success on the track, and given that IndyCar is a niche sport and will remain so for the foreseeable future, I don't think it will make a
significant difference to the scope of her appeal," Bartelli said.
"Will she likely see a few more endorsement opportunities? Probably,” he said. “Will this win, alone, translate into substantial growth for the IRL? Probably not."