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Why isn’t Jimmie Johnson more marketable?

Jimmie Johnson just made history, becoming only the second driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back-to-back Sprint Cup championship titles. He’s well-spoken, clean-cut and has one of the sport’s biggest corporations – Lowe’s -- supporting him.

So will he finally break through and become more marketable than his fellow drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and even Carl Edwards, his runner-up for this year’s championship? Not likely, experts say.

Oh sure, he’s marketable. He even shot a commercial last week before the Ford 400 Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But he doesn’t have that certain something.

“Call him the Roger Federer of NASCAR,” said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Partners and author of The Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report. “Maybe Johnson is too cool and laid back on camera to the point of seeming a little stiff and aloof, and a question mark as a compelling pitchman. Given the state of the current economy, and the tight purse strings of marketers, it’s doubtful that Johnson’s third straight NASCAR championship will lead to new major endorsement deals.”

Dorfman predicts Johnson will make the rounds of talk shows and speaking engagements.

According to Millsport Motorsports’ Davie Brown Index, which uses consumer research to measure the attributes of athletes and celebrities, Earnhardt tops the list of NASCAR drivers among both avid NASCAR fans and the general population. Gordon and Stewart also beat out Johnson.

“He’s dry,” said Joe Castello, who hosts radio shows about auto racing on both 790 The Ticket and Sirius XM. “His style was to be the polished marketable guy, the polished pristine vanilla guy that’s corporate and that got him to where he is. But fans don’t like that. Fans don’t like the vanilla guy. Fans like the Tony Stewart, fans like the guy who’s going to do something against the grain.”

But there’s no question Johnson is marketable, Castello said. “He doesn’t sell as many T-shirts as Earnhardt, as Stewart. “He’s a California kid, understated, that doesn’t make you want to run out and get his T-shirt. His fans are passionate.”

And if you win three consecutive championships, that’s got to mean something, Castello said. “You’ve got to respect that.”

Meanwhile, Lowe’s is offering a discount on Kobalt Tools in Johnson’s honor. Find the details on our Shop-O-Matic blog.

And don’t forget to check out my guest blogs at CNBC, here and here.

Categories: Advertising (79), Auto Racing (42), Endorsements (20)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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