Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the select few drivers who frequently appear in mainstream media, making him recognizable even to people who have never watched a NASCAR race. But that apparently wasn’t his goal when he first began competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Earnhardt recently revealed that, although the publicity he’s received has helped significantly grow his personal brand, his intention “never” was to appear in the media solely to promote himself, according to NBC Sports. In fact, it wasn’t until he matured a bit that the 14-time most popular driver came to truly appreciate the value of his exposure in pop culture, both for himself and NASCAR.
Although his “SportsCenter” commercials helped him become a household name among a wider audience of sports fans, it was things such as his interview with “Rolling Stone” or presenting at the 2001 MTV Music Video Awards that gave him real crossover appeal.
“I do know now better than I knew then how impactful that is and how much that does for your recognition and the sport,” Earnhardt said. “I never really did it for me or myself.”
Despite the fact that both Earnhardt and his sister, Kelley, admit he is relatively shy, the 43-year-old is set to become an NBC Sports commentator and launch his own show on the DIY Network in 2018, and even recently served as a weatherman in Charlotte. His comfortability partly is due to the many commercials he’s done for his parters, but Earnhardt largely credits his former long-time sponsor Budweiser for connecting him with major media outlets early in his career.
“Those things, I had nothing to do with all of that,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “Those things happened because of our relationship with Budweiser and (public relations representative) Jade Gurss’ work ethic and his ability to get us into those doors and into those conversations with those publications.”
We probably should thank Budweiser for shaping the phenomenon that is “Dale Jr.” as it’s efforts have allowed Earnhardt’s subsequent sponsors, such as Mountain Dew, to have him star in some hysterical commercials with Danny McBride.