GoDaddy Debuts Van Damme Ad To Appeal to “Courageous” Small Business Owners

GoDaddy Van Damme - courageous small business

GoDaddy, which calls itself the largest Web host and domain register on the Internet, announced a new brand strategy to appeal to “courageous” small business owners and entrepreneurs.

The announcement was accompanied by a new website and a new TV ad spot. Instead of the “GoDaddy girls” wearing skin-tight T shirts, the new ad features Belgian martial arts expert and film star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, along with a fictional bakery owner.  It debuted on prime time television on the NFL football season opener Thursday night. It can also be seen on YouTube.

CEO Irving Blake said in an email Thursday to GoDaddy customers that it’s an outgrowth of research that the company conducted.  In his email Blake explained to customers:

“One of the clearest lessons we’ve learned is that the one word to describe you best is ‘courageous.’ You go after what you really love, you chart your own course, and you create something (often from nothing) that usually makes the world a better place. Whether it’s a neighborhood pizza shop, an organization to help those in need, or a company poised to launch a new industry, you believe where others don’t. You have the guts to strike out on your own to make your dreams — however bold or humble — a reality. That’s courage, and it’s worth every ounce of support we can give.”

Transformation: Image and Business Model

GoDaddy has been in the midst of a transformation, as we wrote earlier in May.

This time last year, the company was welcoming its third CEO in less than 12 months.   Controversial founder and CEO Bob Parsons (who still owns part of the company) had departed.  New investors — KKR Capstone, Silver Lake Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures — reportedly bought 65% of the company for over $2 billion in 2011.

In addition to the management change, the company is in the midst of broadening its service offerings.  To achieve that, GoDaddy has been on an acquisition path.  In July of 2012 GoDaddy acquired Outright, a bookkeeping software application. Last month the company took another step by announcing the  acquisition of Locu, a local search listings service. The company says the Locu acquisition will help more than 30,000 restaurants, spas, salons, accountants, photographers, home-remodeling companies and other small businesses boost their digital presence.

Simpler Website, Less-Polarizing Ads

Since 2011 GoDaddy has simplified its website.  A year ago the site was jam-packed with upsells for domain name services.  It had a lot of technical language unintelligible to small business owners and marketing managers.  Now the website is simpler and easier to digest, emphasizing the basics for a Web presence:  websites, hosting, domain names.

Another change is a focus beyond the online digerati such as online-only entrepreneurs and domainers.  GoDaddy now is specifically reaching out to Main Street small businesses, in addition to online entrepreneurs.

For example, the new GoDaddy 30-second ad with martial artist Van Damme features a solo bakery owner. The baker glances at the online orders piling up on his website, while kneading bread dough. The baker calls on his inner Van Damme to get motivated to meet the orders. Van Damme plays several instruments in the ad, each with a fast beat, while doing the full splits he’s known for.  At the end Van Damme says, “It’s go time.”

Absent from the ad are the busty women that put the GoDaddy brand on the map, but turned off some women business owners.

Another recent GoDaddy video on YouTube features employees referring to local small business owners like craftsmen, divorce lawyers and plumbers.

GoDaddy’s sales topped $1 billion last year.  It employs 3,900 people.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

15 Reactions
  1. Anita:

    GoDaddy is getting into martial arts?! 😉

    Thanks for the update on the web hosting field. I am glad to hear that GoDaddy is fixing its own website, so it is more user friendly! 🙂

    • I’m curious, Martin. How would you rate GoDaddy’s services? Have you ever used their Website Builder product?

      • Shawn,

        I can’t rate GoDaddy’s services so much, due to the fact that I have only used them when I purchased the domain at a Flippa auction and the seller had used GoDaddy as domain register. I had to create an account and during that process it was plenty of information that passed through! 😉 At the moment the domain is still there because I let the domain be locked in for 60 days or so, because I didn’t know what to do with a check box! 😉

        I haven’t use their Website Builder, but at a glance at the former web tool, it looks a bit “old”…

        Case in point, when I started my new project Ego NetCast, I got the domain for free via Squarespace because I signed up for their business package for one year. It was easy to get started with their blog and web platform and the customer service is excellent! 🙂

    • Hi Martin, Actually, the website’s been improved for months now. Way easier to use, because it isn’t crammed so full of stuff.

      Well, we will see about Van Damme. I’m a Van Damme fan, but I would rather have seen him training the baker on a few martial arts moves on the bread dough, than playing musical instruments.

      – Anita

      • Anita,

        Thanks for the information! It is a catchy tune, but it was a bit strange finding Van Damme in the refrigerator! 😉 Maybe they should invite Karate Kid to do some moves with the dough?

  2. Interestingly enough, I never had an issue with their “sexy ads.” Now, Bob Parsons is another story. His existence at the company was enough to keep me away from doing business with Go Daddy. Not sure how affective Van Damme will be. He doesn’t appeal to me at all. But maybe 20-something women aren’t the ad’s target.

    • I wonder if they’re targeting middle-aged men who have always idolized Van Damme’s action movies. But I guess the ladies might appreciate it too.

      • Well, as my husband said, he would have appreciated it more if Van Damme had whacked a few piles of bread dough around. 🙂

  3. I prefer Van Damme in the Coors Light advert he did. This ad’s OK’ish. I’m neither here nor there about it, but maybe it’ll grow on me. I don’t see how it will if I’m not inclined to press play again though 🙂

    • Thanks, Ebele. Good feedback. 🙂

      – Anita

      • I don’t think he should do anymore ads for a while, or else that’s all he’ll get known for, not that he’ll probably mind what with how much he probably got paid.

        On that note, I wonder if he’s contracted to do more ads with GoDaddy or whether that was a one-off.

  4. Martin, I have used the GoDaddy website builder. I was doing a favor for a family friend, and used it to set up a landscaping company website.

    It was easy to use and I thought it made a pretty decent first time website. The result looked professional and exactly what Main Street small businesses need. It was a handful of pages, it had some boilerplate verbiage and it included images you could choose from. It took about 2 hours to set up.

    It was also very cost effective.

    For a business owner who doesn’t have online experience and doesn’t have much time to spend fussing with a website, it’s a very attractive package.

    – Anita

  5. Interesting choice. I’d think Go Daddy has the cash flow to attract an A-list star. But I’m sure Claude is thankful for the work.

  6. Who’s next, MC Hammer? “STOP… GO TIME!”