As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Seriescomes to a close Dale Earnhardt Jr. finds himself in 10th place and has no chance to win the Cup. While he has had another solid year this year, finishing in the top 5 in 10 races and in the top 10 in 16 races, his fans are likely a bit disappointed and already rooting for greater success in 2009. One might also think that his sponsor, Amp Energy, may be disappointed as well, but signing with Dale has been so monumentally beneficial Amp has nothing to say but positive things. In fact, the great success Amp Energy drinks has had since signing on with Dale is a testament to his popularity and tremendous fan appeal, and is a wonderful demonstration of what good branding decisions can do for a company.
Trademarks are an incredibly important asset for any company, but branding can and should go well beyond a trademark. Since signing on with Dale Jr., AMP Energy drink has seen remarkable growth in NASCAR markets, growing 127.5 percent in the last year alone in such markets, which is more than 13 times faster than industry growth rate. This is nothing short of remarkable because in the past year alone over 300 new energy drinks entered the market, but at the same time AMP is growing by leaps and bounds. So remarkable is the growth rate for Amp Energy drinks in NASCAR markets that associating with NASCAR and Dale Jr. has caused the overall volume of sales to be 52.1 percent year-to-date in all measured channels.
In an interview with Darren Rovell, Maurice Herrera, director of marketing for AMP Energy, said:
Winning is definitely important, but equally important is how competitive you are. He always has his heart set on wanting to win and we’re happy that he is part of the Chase. Our expectations with him were extremely high and he’s been an amazing asset for us in terms of driving awareness, sales and loyalty.
Who wouldn’t be happy with how successful Dale Jr. has been for Amp Energy? In the short time that Amp has teamed up with Dale Jr. they have increased market share from being 5th in the industry to 3rd, behind only Red Bull and Monster.
It is important to understand that Dale Jr. is his own brand and is not the trademark of AMP Energy, but what the association with Dale Jr. has done is provide a much higher profile for the energy drink and create good will in the AMP Energy trademark. What Dale Jr. has done is license his likeness and lend his credibility to AMP Energy. The right of publicity Dale Jr. enjoys is the inherent right of every human being to control the commercial use of his or her identity, and his association with AMP Energy has proven to be extremely valuable. Through this association Dale Jr. has managed to pass on the good will he has created in his own likeness and transfer it to the product he endorses.
While not every company could afford to be a NASCAR sponsor or have a high-profile spokesman like Dale Jr., what the success of AMP Energy does demonstrate is the importance of investing in a trademark and creating name recognition. I do not expect that AMP Energy is going to cut ties with Dale Jr. any time soon, why would they? But if and when such a break does occur AMP Energy will have obtained significant benefit and enhanced the value of their own trademark and product line through the association. Therefore, when you have a business you ought to not only be thinking about obtaining a trademark, but you should be thinking about ways to create and build value in the mark. The trademark will become synonymous with the products and extremely valuable because consumers will identify with the trademark. So the name of the game is to create a positive association and an association that is strong so that consumers will think fondly of your product and ask for it by name without accepting any substitutes.