Ranked as having one of the most substantial social media followings of any female athlete globally, it’s no surprise that Hailie Deegan’s digital prowess is turning into a key way of funding her racing career.
Deegan, the rising 19-year-old NASCAR driver, represents motorsports’ next best chance to have a female superstar since Danica Patrick retired in 2018. Deegan, who competes in the third-tier NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has an impressive 1 million followers on Instagram, along with 460,000 on Facebook and another 122,000 on Twitter.
In NASCAR, including male and female drivers at all levels, Deegan is No. 1 in fan engagement, No. 1 in sponsorship value (her Monster Energy and Ford partnerships rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively), and No. 2 in follower growth rate (behind Bubba Wallace), according to social media measurement firm MVPindex. Even more notably, MVP says she is the No. 7 female athlete in the world for value generated for partners, behind No. 1 Serena Williams; WWE talent Nikki Bella, Natalya, Paige and Lana; and tennis star Naomi Osaka.
Hailie Deegan’s social reach
Facebook: HailieDeegan4, 465K followers
Instagram: @HailieDeegan, 1M followers
TikTok: @HailieDeegan, 2.6M followers
Twitter: @HailieDeegan, 122K followers
YouTube: 145K subscribers
All that attention has led to what her agent, Connexions Sports and Entertainment founder and CEO Bob Walker, described to Sports Business Journal as an interesting trend whereby they are increasingly working with brands and media partners who will pay her good rates but have no interest in traditional racing assets.
Said Walker, “We’re finding a lot of partners supporting Hailie and want to be part of her racing career, but they say, ‘Hey, we don’t need to be on her car or firesuit; we need more social media from her as part of the partnership, so we’re going to forgo branding on the vehicle, take those monies and earmark them for social.’”
Brands she’s worked with strictly for social media content include Can-Am, TikTok, Cameo and Facebook. She’s also worked with Heat Wave Sunglasses, and Walker said other deals are being finalized.
Walker said he’s noticed this big shift the last year or so on the sponsorship side. He said that one of Connexions’ employees works with Deegan on a weekly basis to remind her of any posts she needs to do that week for her partners as part of the deliverable assets in her contracts. She also has someone with her constantly filming content.
Given that motorsports has had sponsor support as a core part of its identity for decades, many drivers are enthusiastic and unabashed in pitching their partners’ products — and Deegan is no different.
For example, the Deegan family (father Brian Deegan is a longtime motorports and action sports star) has had a lengthy relationship with Monster, and Deegan earlier this month had a new post out with a video talking about her favorite drinks in Monster’s stable. She also had a couple other posts up supporting Ford’s push to gain buzz around the unveiling next month of the Next Generation car in NASCAR as well as others touting her merchandise for sale.
Deegan told SBJ she is the only person who posts from her social media channels, mixing in glimpses of her daily life with posts about her merchandise collection.
“We really let Hailie be herself because we’ve always stressed the importance of being real and authentic,” said Walker. “There’s a fine line between the world we come from in action sports and being edgy, crazy and over the top, and bridging that gap in NASCAR which is more corporate America, polished and conservative.”
When it comes to her family’s merchandise business, Deegan said she likes to ask followers about their opinion on certain styles before she releases them so she can make sure the merchandise is in style. She also wears the merchandise and touts it herself because “people are buying my merch with my name or my [diecast] car; they want to see me wearing it.”
Deegan will post sometimes at a track on race day at proper times, but “obviously racing is my priority.” She said her preferred platform at this point is Instagram in part because that is where she has the most followers engaging with her.
“Giving back to the fans and just being interactive has been some of the reasons I’ve been able to grow on social media,” she said. “Answering questions, replying back to mentions, all that’s me on there and I like to keep it real. Fans appreciate that, and from a business perspective, brands can also appreciate it and see I’m dedicated to this and want to represent them well.”