Dale Earnhardt Inc. is planning a series of events at its campus in Mooresville, N.C., that reflect the late driver's personality and lifestyle, much the same way Graceland offers an insight into the life of Elvis.

A new leadership team, put in place less than two months ago by company CEO and Earnhardt's widow, Teresa Earnhardt, is working to resuscitate the DEI brand since it merged its Sprint Cup racing operations with Chip Ganassi Racing late last year.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing lives on as a NASCAR team, while DEI's headquarters is now the home for Earnhardt's legacy business and other ventures. DEI's once-bustling race shop, which used to employ more than 300 workers, now is home to 58 employees.

Those who remain have a renewed focus on what Jeff Steiner, executive vice president and general manager, calls a "brand freshening," to include "better and more open public relations, a licensing plan that represents Dale and his legacy, and a focus back on the core of what makes Dale Earnhardt."

One of Steiner's first steps was taken two weeks ago when DEI signed Victory Management Group, Charlotte, to lead its event marketing, public relations and licensing endeavors. Victory's president, David Hynes, was chief marketing officer at Action Performance from 1998-2003, and his expertise in the licensing business was one of DEI's key attractions to Victory.

"It's about emphasising what Dale really meant to the sport and getting specific on the milestones that led him from rags to riches and endeared him to the fans," Hynes said. "There are so many stories that haven't been told."

Telling those Earnhardt stories through select events is ultimately what DEI hopes to do.

While it's a work in progress, Steiner envisions staging a classic car show from Earnhardt's collection of 50-some cars, including everything from his 1957 Chevy to racecars and other personal vehicles. There also figure to be opportunities around next year's opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame - Earnhardt is a shoo-in to be a member of the charter class.

Most recently, DEI entertained hundreds of fans on its Fan Day, which it holds each year around race week in Charlotte.

"From a fan experience standpoint, there are going to be opportunities for fans to get closer to the life and lifestyle of Dale Earnhardt," Steiner said. "We're talking about doing some things, like a classic car event, maybe with a sponsor, that reconnects with the fans in unique ways. There are a lot of things within Dale's properties that have never been seen."

by Michael Smith
Michael Smith is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal