Go Daddy: Never Mind That SOPA Thing, Look at Naked Danica Patrick

Published on December 28, 2011
by Arik Hesseldahl

Days after suffering a public-relations pounding that resulted in the loss of as many as 37,000 domains, Go Daddy, the privately held domain-name registrar and Web host, is resorting to its tried-and-true weapon for generating attention and maybe business: A nearly naked Danica Patrick.

Readers of today’s New York Times got an eyeful of Patrick, the auto-racing driver who has starred in numerous provocative Go Daddy TV spots, in a full-page ad that appeared in the newspaper’s A section. (I snapped the image at right with my iPhone.)

If Go Daddy is looking for a tactic to help it change the subject from its sudden about-face in supporting the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) now before Congress, this probably isn’t it. Having initially supported SOPA — and faced with a sudden exodus of thousands of customers who moved their domain-name registrations to other outfits — Go Daddy suddenly had a change of heart, and issued a statement saying it “no longer supports SOPA.”

Resorting to cheeky ads isn’t exactly going to reduce the outrage people feel against the company. Its CEO, Bob Parson, sparked a smaller controversy when he posted a video of himself killing a wild elephant in Zimbabwe and then letting locals feast on it. A small boycott effort slowed the company’s growth for a few weeks, but ultimately caused little damage.

But 37,000 domains lost in two days, plus all the negative press, can’t help but get some attention. Hence the about-face, and the attempt, cheap as it may be, to try to change the subject. Perhaps another outrageous TV spot during the Super Bowl? One wonders if the group of private equity firms that bought out Go Daddy for $2.25 billion earlier this year — they include KKR, Silver Lake Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures — still think it was a good deal.

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