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Dale Earnhardt: Not "Earnhing" Much, Is He?

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
AP
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

If I'm in Budweiser's marketing department right now, I'm feeling fine with losing my primary sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car next season. (Yes, even with new driver Kasey Kahne having a disappointing year.)

On the flip side, I might be sick to my stomach if I'm an executive for Pepsi , which paid boatloads to have its Amp logo featured on his car going forward.

While even I begged Budweiser to stick with Earnhardt and predicted that 2008 would be the year when Earnhardt shattered all merchandise records NASCAR insiders insist that Earnhardt still is at record sales pace for next year--I'm wondering how long Earnhardt's marketing honeymoon can last.

Because it's hard to avoid the stats that tell me and you that, save for Michelle Wie, there is no athlete who has disappointed corporate America more with lackluster results.

Here is all you need to know: in the last 113 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won twice. Simple math. Earnhardt has only won 1.76 percent of races over this time period.

Earnhardt has a ton of fans, but at some point, he has to start losing them if he can't win. No one wants to cheer for that. He obviously can't be an effective endorser for the likes of Wrangler, Pepsi, Adidas and Drakkar Noir, either. One of the key tenants of a good endorser is being a winner.

Earnhardt has a lot of apologists and there is of course the conspiracy theory that Earnhardt's stepmother isn't giving him the tools to win in this now lame duck season with DEI. I don't buy that they'd be willing to tank it like that and I also don't agree with those who say that Earnhardt has a lifelong pass to popularity. If he doesn't win at all next year, his value will have to decline.

Not Your Old, "Tired" Marketing
Kudos to Goodyear for an innovative sponsorship. I admit I was a bit surprised when I found out yesterday that the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon was being sponsored by a tire company--it's a foot race isn't it? But then I liked what the folks at Goodyear thought of.

They're lining the entire course route with 26.2 miles worth of the company's TripleTred tracks. To make it that much bigger they are putting down the tread marks using a huge replica tire that will roll over the course over a period of two to three days to lay down the line of biodegradable vegetable-based latex paint.

This is not the first time Goodyear has done something crazy to market its tires. In 2005, the company worked with Rip Hamilton of the Pistons and braided the TripleTred design into his head. The next step for Goodyear if the brand is serious about the marathon market is to work with a brand to put its tread on the bottom of running shoes.

So far, the only shoes that use "Goodyear" rubber soles are adidas driving shoes. Their competitor, Michelin, has partnered with Babolat to do put Michelin branded rubber soles on the bottom of its tennis shoes.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com