Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will have a new sponsor next season. Sort of.
PepsiCo is expected to announce this week that it will phase out its AMP Energy brand, which has backed Earnhardt as either major or associate sponsor in a total of 20 races this season. The company’s Diet Mountain Dew brand will replace Amp as sponsor of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in a total of 16 races next season; the final year of PepsiCo’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports.
Amp’s sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt dates back to 2007, when the third-generation NASCAR driver left his family-owned team to drive for longtime friend and mentor Rick Hendrick. The deal is reportedly worth more than $25 million per year, and when combined with a companion sponsorship from the National Guard, Earnhardt is believed to add more than $40 million per annum to the Hendrick Motorsports financial coffers.
Once the fifth-largest brand in the crowded energy drink market, Amp has seen its market share diminish recently. Amp has failed to make major inroads against Red Bull, Monster Energy and Rockstar, which account for more than two-thirds of all U.S. energy drink sales. Amp rose from fifth to fourth nationally during its time with Earnhardt -- third in most NASCAR markets – but generated an estimated $234 million in sales last year; still far behind the leading players in the booming, $6 billion per year energy drink market. Those numbers led PepsiCo to re-evaluate AMP’s NASCAR involvement, and to the decision to sift focus to its Diet Mountain Dew brand, which is more popular with younger consumers. Amp will reportedly be re-branded as an energy drink for older consumers.
Cox said market research proves that NASCAR fans remain loyal consumers of products that are involved in the sport. “We know from various studies and research that race fans are 2.5 times more likely to reach for Amp than the typical consumer,” he said. “The brand really made a place for itself within the sport, and with Dale.”