Danica Patrick: How Social Media and Strategic Partnerships Are Paving My Future Off the Track

Let personal passions drive your brand

Patrick writes that she's rounding out her marketing portfolio.
Getty Images/Aerotoons

There is something to be said for the whole “find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life” thing. Success takes hard work, but passion brings fulfillment from that hard work.

At the start of my career, people suggested that a woman could only be a racing reporter or timekeeper, but never an actual race car driver. Some say that I “crashed the boys’ club” or that I broke down the gender barrier in racing, but all I did was follow my passions.

Headshot: Alex Fine

I’ll always be someone with an edge who isn’t afraid to make a little noise and push the envelope a little bit. That part of me won’t ever change, but now it’s time to show who I am off the track. Being a professional athlete allows a level of name recognition available to few, but name recognition and brand awareness—having people know what you stand for—are very different things.

I’ve proven myself in my racing career, so now I am tapping into my personal passions that transcend the sport to round out my marketing portfolio. What once started as hobbies, like yoga, strength training and healthy eating, have now become my brand pillars; ones that I share with my fans on a daily basis. And my most powerful tool to help craft my brand? Social media.

Social media is a space to say exactly what you want to say, exactly how you want to say it and when you want to say it. I am a very visual person, so Instagram is my go-to channel. With just a quick post I can share racing, recipes, workouts, yoga, Dallas and Ella (my dogs), my latest article on The Players’ Tribune and the occasional motivational quote. These are the things that make me tick—healthy mind, healthy body, healthy life and the occasional glass of wine. These moments are things I would be doing anyway, but now I get the opportunity to invite people in and tell them my story; not just what they read in the news.

Social media has also allowed me to engage with my racing fans and participate in a community of people that share the same passions as I do. When tasked with developing recipes and workouts for my upcoming book, Pretty Intense, I relied on a community of committed people who tested each element and provided feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Where did I find these people? Through an online registration and dedicated Instagram feed. Social media is a two-way street. I not only post, but listen to my audience and their feedback.

By establishing myself off the track in the health and wellness space, I have been able to align myself with brands I am passionate about. In today’s market, both sides, the brand and the endorser, realize that the success of a partnership is completely dependent upon its authenticity. My race team sponsor, Aspen Dental, stands for more than plaque removal and flossing. The brand focuses on overall oral health, which fits in with my personal focus on health and wellness. And Code 3 Associates, a nonprofit organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas, is another race team partner that has allowed my fondness for animals to become actionable as my racing career has grown. In addition to my Nascar fans, my sponsors have access to a targeted audience because of my off-track brand, and give me another avenue to reinforce my interests.

Off the track I have made it a point to pursue opportunities that support my visions and allow me to be intimately involved in the process.  Fashion has always been important to me and I have dreamed of having my own clothing line since I was a kid.  When the opportunity to work with HSN came up, they were on board with me being involved every step of the way. From the name, Warrior by Danica Patrick, to the logo, the cuts, the prints and the fabrics, I was part of every decision. The end result is a line of stylish, comfortable athleisure wear and accessories that I am incredibly proud to have my name on, thanks to a partner that supported my vision and helped me bring it to life.

The biggest thing to remember is that all of this takes time. I have been racing for 26 years, and I am just now adding exploring my off-track passions to my already busy competition schedule. It is a lot of work and you have to sell yourself, but by carefully curating your personal brand portfolio around who you are—through social media, closely aligned partnerships and strategic business investments—you will find success.

It is an incredibly rewarding process that is worth every bit of effort you put into your vision.

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.