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Todt warned on F1 alcohol sponsorship

NEWS STORY
13/11/2014

In a move reminiscent of the F1 tobacco ban, the opening salvo has been fired as group seeks to ban sponsorship of the sport involving alcohol.

When Pitpass reported moves by the EU to end alcohol sponsorship in F1 back in May, some dismissed the claim as "alarmist" and "sensationalism", however, an open letter from Mariann Skar, Secretary General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) to (FIA president) Jean Todt makes it clear that the EU means business, a move which could seriously impact a number of teams.

Just weeks prior to our report, Force India announced a new sponsorship agreement with vodka brand Smirnoff which followed Martini's title sponsorship of Williams and Johnny Walker, currently a partner of McLaren, subsequently being named as the sport's official whisky.

Sensitivity about alcohol sponsorship in motor racing is especially acute because of the role of drinking in road accidents. In the European Union 25% of all road deaths are attributed to alcohol misuse and it is estimated that 6,500 deaths would be avoided if all drivers obeyed drink driving laws.

In May we revealed that a leaked report from the (UK's) Labour Party revealed plans to ban alcohol sponsorship if they take office after next year's General Election, while some MPs are already calling for a UK version of France's Loi Évin, which bans alcohol advertising on television, in cinemas, and from sponsoring of sporting events.

The emergence of the alcohol sponsorship issue is a major challenge for the Todt who has made road safety a major theme of his Presidency. In the 1990s former FIA President Max Mosley tried to broker a compromise deal on tobacco with the EU to gain time for teams to find alternative sponsors. He succeeded but the sport was mired in controversy as a result.

Now Todt faces the awkward tightrope of similarly defending the interests of the sport and maintaining a credible commitment to road safety. This will be no easy task and makes the FIA's relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) especially sensitive as it is the United Nation's agency with responsibility not just for alcohol control but also road safety.

The Eurocare letter, which has been sent to Bernie Ecclestone, WHO officials and various European Commissioners, reads as follows:

"I am writing to you on behalf of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare), an alliance of 57 public health organisations from 25 European countries working on the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm. Improving road safety is one of the topics we are promoting. Drink driving is linked to 25% of the road deaths in Europe and 6,500 deaths could be saved in 2010 if drivers had obeyed the law on drink driving.

The reason why we are writing to you is to address our great concern regarding alcohol sponsorship of Formula One. On the 9th November the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix was broadcasted widely on several TV channels in Europe and the alcohol advertising through sponsorship was very visible during the whole day. 2014 has been a strong season for alcohol sponsorship in Formula One. The alcohol producer Smirnoff now joins Johnny Walker (McLaren)i and Martini (Williams) as another major alcohol brand in the sport after signing the sponsorship agreement with Force India (May 2014).

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance is deeply concerned of the heavy marketing exercise seen in Formula One and is therefore requesting an urgent change. The association between drinking and driving should clearly be seen as a troubling one.

Alcohol sponsorship is big business in Europe. The alcohol industry spends billions every year marketing its products, and over £800 million a year in the UK alone. However, the very nature of such sponsorship in Formula One is leaving an uneasy feeling for an increasing number of people.

Sponsorship of sporting events such as Formula One is a prominent marketing tool used by the alcohol industry to promote their products. Sponsorship of this type operates differently from conventional advertising, as its means of persuasion is indirect and implicit. It allows companies not only to create and reinforce awareness, but also to generate positive associations between the sport and the product. The intended result is that the sponsorship creates a link between the company and a highly valued event or occasion in the minds of consumers; a process known as “brand transfer.” It is this transfer that is particularly troubling.

Allowing alcohol sponsorship in Formula One seems to contradict many official guidelines for the marketing of alcohol. It runs against the EU Directive (2010/13/EU) which states that marketing for the consumption of alcohol should not be linked to driving. Moreover, the current association between alcohol and driving does not seem to fall in the category of “the widespread promotion of responsible drinking messages”, part of the mission supported by the alcohol industry itself.

Alcohol companies often claim that their campaigns are merely the result of a competition between producers for market share and brand loyalty. However a ban on Formula One alcohol sponsorship would only create a level playing field for those in the industry. There is wide spread agreement about the inappropriateness of the alcohol industry sponsoring Formula One.

A common argument made against imposing restrictions on alcohol sponsorships is that it could deal a significant financial blow to the sport. Yet such concerns are largely unjustified. When the tobacco industry was edged out of snooker, horse racing and even Formula One itself, the sports made successful shifts and alternative sponsors emerged. Despite fear-mongering concerning the withdrawal of tobacco sponsorship from Formula One, claiming that the new regulations could be fatal for the sport, nothing of the sort has emerged.

When considering the continued destructive prevalence of drink-driving, permitting the mixed messages presented in alcohol sponsorship of Formula One seems ever more inappropriate given the total viewing audience of 500 million. The sport would not collapse overnight as a result and would constitute a sincere effort to severe the link between drinking and driving. Furthermore, a ban on alcohol sponsorship in Formula One is not a radical departure from previous policy, and rather is a reform in sync with current national efforts to reduce alcohol-related harm.

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance is requesting an end to alcohol sponsorship in Formula One and expects rapid action from your side. We are happy to meet to discuss this further with you."

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by karel, 17/11/2014 13:42

"I just put it simply. Leave the sport alone, I'm very sure that the EU should concern about other problems like: countries who want to leave the eu, citizens who want to leave but can't, unemployment and corruption. so a whole lot of other things to do "

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2. Posted by Tommy Tipper, 14/11/2014 12:53

"
How many road deaths are linked to speed?.
Surely some "brand transfer" there"

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3. Posted by Steve B 70, 14/11/2014 11:17

"The EU Nanny State's influence is growing all the time but the more ridiculous proposals the keep coming up with will only hasten its demise. This sort of proposal from unelected bureaucrats will only strengthen the support for UKIP and those who want the EU to stop interfering. The EU should be about commerce not politics."

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4. Posted by RS from Calgary, 14/11/2014 1:39

"This is a stupid proposal, and while I have totally supported the past tobacco ban, selected alcohol sponsorship makes sense to me. The alcohol brands involved in F1 today are upscale brands, and most of the consumers of these brands, like myself, would never consider drinking and driving.
Do the branding elements on F1 cars influence younger fans? I think not, as most younger fans I know are more responsible than my over 60 peers when it involves drinking and driving.
I suspect that this article gives more substance to the old reference "the silly season"."

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5. Posted by NotRocketSurgery, 14/11/2014 1:31

"Folks, I wonder if there might just be a solution to this problem that will make everybody happy. What if ...

I propose the formation of an organization made up of representatives of FIA, each of the teams, each adult beverage producer interested in seeing their name on an F-1 car, Mr. Bernie, ... you get the idea. For now, let's call the organization Sponsors and Teams United to Encourage Responsible Alcohol Consumption (STUERAC). For now, that will do.

The main purpose of STUERAC will be four fold:

1. Upon assignment of existing sponsorship agreements between teams and STUERAC, and any future agreements between STUERAC members and F-1 Teams, the Organization will contract with teams directly for any or all sponsorship between the Organization and any F-1 Team. Thus there will be no direct team support by any individual alcoholic beverage producer.

2. Collect membership fees from Sponsors, pool the funds, and apply appropriate amounts to fulfill agreements with the Teams according to .

3. The agreement between Teams and Alcoholic Beverage Sponsors will specify that any use of a Member's brand logo will be accompanied by the STUERAC logo and some kind of specific language encouraging responsible drinking and driving. An example might be: "DRINK RESPONSIBLY - When You Drink, DON'T DRIVE! Members of STUERAC.

4. Engage in non-racing activities jointly on behalf of Sponsors and F-1 Teams to promote responsible drinking and responsible driving. Drivers Education might be an area, remedial training programs, etc.
Now, let your imagination run wild. I already have. I see a nice Asti sponsor for Ferrari, maybe Newcastle Brown for Lotus, an American Burbon for the American team if there ever is one, and so on. If there are more teams than sponsors, the existing sponsors will support a "non-primary sponsorship" for the remaining teams with either brand identification or perhaps STUERAC logs themselves.

I can see all kinds of opportunities for STUERAC to involve fans in events both away from the track and actually at the track, prior or after the races. On my side of the Pond, just within the last week or so, Budweiser is running a pretty interesting commercial celebrating and recognizing the "Designated Driver". Nobody owns "Designated Driver" as far as I know, and I can see activities involving teams, drivers, sponsors and the "Who's Your Designated Driver".

Graphicly, I don't see any change from what any individual sponsor puts on the car with respect to a logo. However, the placement of the logo must include the addition of two lines: 1.) Drink Responsibly! and 2.) When you drink, don't drive." (By the way, this way we don't ban the drinking. We ban the driving.)

I think of it as my response to "When the EAPA gives you lemons, turn it right around and make hard lemonaid and sell responsibility.

That's my feeling on the subject, and I'm sticking to it.

I would like to hear what the rest of you guys feel about this kind of an approach.

JW

"

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6. Posted by flashpete, 13/11/2014 23:31

"Dismiss this at your peril.

The Nanny State is gathering power, not just in Europe, but everywhere.

We are no longer permitted to take responsibility for our actions, nor to determine what might endanger us.

If they get away with this, what will they ban next — motor racing itself?

Why not?"

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7. Posted by nealio, 13/11/2014 18:51

"Like Todt would even care."

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8. Posted by Ro, 13/11/2014 16:47

"For God's sake, will someone please tell the twerps in the EU who make these ridiculous rules to go and find something worth while to rule on. Its a bloody sport ! If the Alcohol companies can advertise on Television why try and stop advertising in F1 ??? good job Durex arent sponsors any more, would they ban that too ? Absolute joke !"

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9. Posted by Hondawho?, 13/11/2014 14:49

"Or Haribo's, why not ban them as well. The other month I had not eaten as much (proper food. you chocolate,etc) as I should and I love Haribo's. I downed a complete bag. Halfway through the meeting I was attending someone said "what was I on"? "Had I been drinking before the meeting" (I never drink and drive these days) So lets go ahead and Haribos as well……They are dangerous…… whatever next????? Tobacco, Alcohol, its all too easy for these €250k+ a year EU general secretaries of these organisations to hit on……. There are more important things to change in the world………………. They only pick on F1 because of the coverage that has been developed by a very clever guy. He must be sick of all this nonsense."

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10. Posted by Hondawho?, 13/11/2014 14:36

"The next ting they will want to ban are "energy drink companies" whose products have too much caffeine and sugar in them! Now I wonder who that could be????"

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11. Posted by Canuck, 13/11/2014 13:53

"I think this is a wrong direction as F1 is also very involved with the drive safely campaigns, therefore representing a balanced approach. Does eurocare want F1 to stop that action?"

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12. Posted by Hondawho?, 13/11/2014 13:19

""The European Alcohol Policy Alliance" who are these people, (http://www.eurocare.org) who set them up, who put them there? Answer find out and do not vote for them! Where will it end? I like to think i could live somewhere else and be free of all this rubbish but where? Mind you I am a speed freak so a comet travelling at 32,000mph may be a good spot now there are parking spaces available. "

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13. Posted by PeterMann, 13/11/2014 13:19

"'... it is estimated that 6,500 deaths would be avoided if all drivers obeyed drink driving laws.'

Wouldn't they do better to concentrate on getting folks to obey the drink driving laws? It's surely the REAL issue."

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14. Posted by nonickname, 13/11/2014 12:58

"If it is that harmful band the product....oh yes then they loose the vat,income tax and have to close the plants and have unemployment. Bunny huggers strike again."

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15. Posted by emcomments, 13/11/2014 12:27 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 13/11/2014 12:31)

"Eurocare is NOT the EU, it is a group of (largely) anti-alcohol and drugs organisations.

' EU Directive (2010/13/EU) which states that marketing for the consumption of alcohol should not be linked to driving.'
It does not state that (see http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:095:0001:0024:EN:PDF), it talks about advertising not sponsorship. Elsewhere it talks about the sponsorship of tobacco products so a clear distinction is being made:
Article 22
Television advertising and teleshopping for alcoholic beverages shall comply with the following criteria:
(a) it may not be aimed specifically at minors or, in particular, depict minors consuming these beverages;
(b) it shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or to driving;
"

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