Earnhardt Mainstreams His Marketability

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Junior was a freshman in high school when he figured out that image is everything and for him to be considered cool, he had to have a pair of old-school adidas Samba Classic sneakers.

With a clean look and simple colors, the Sambas were an extension of Earnhardt's shy, quiet personality.

Eighteen years later, Earnhardt still chooses his brands carefully and adidas again made the cut as NASCAR's most popular driver mainstreams his endorsement portfolio.

His signing last week with adidas America on a multiyear personal services contract came just two weeks after he announced a similar deal with Sony.

Both companies are international and significantly broaden Earnhardt's marketing image. Although he's a superstar in America, US-based sponsors Budweiser, Chevrolet and Wrangler haven't made Earnhardt an international icon.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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