An 18-page report by Eurocare accuses F1 of "extremely high exposure of alcohol advertising to audiences".
With only three of the current teams sporting alcohol branding, and only one of them regularly scoring points, some would say that the latest claim from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance network Eurocare is a little excessive. However, with the FIA using F1 to push its own Road Safety agenda, and president Jean Todt clearly eyeing a future political career, sooner or later the issue will have to be addressed.
When Pitpass reported moves by the EU to end alcohol sponsorship in F1 back in May 2014, 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 made it clear the EU means business.
Following open letters to both Todt and Bernie Ecclestone last year, Eurocare has now issued an 18 page report, entitled 'Alcohol Advertising And Sponsorship In Formula One: A Dangerous Cocktail', based on analysis of brand exposure during last year's Monaco Grand Prix together with analysis of teams' sponsorship by the alcohol industry.
According to the report, which was issued by Eurocare, the Institute of Alcohol Studies (UK) and Monash University (Australia), "the findings show that alcohol sponsorship of F1 provides a platform for an extremely high exposure of alcohol advertising to audiences".
The report claims that during the 2014 Monaco race there were on average 11 references to alcohol brands per minute. In other words – the worldwide audience of a total 500 million people were exposed to an alcohol brand on average every five seconds for almost two hours.
The report's authors claim the sponsorship practices go against the spirit of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Furthermore, they also believe that the practices in F1 also go against even weaker voluntary codes set up by the alcohol industry itself.
Eurocare says that having raised the issue of alcohol sponsorship with Jean Todt, the FIA president "claimed no responsibility for the matter". (So no change there then!)
"The amount of alcohol related exposure in F1 settings is extreme by anyone's standards," said Mariann Skar. "There seems to be a lack of recognition within the F1 community about their responsibility when showing alcohol adverts every five seconds to an audience of 500 million viewers. We now urge the involved bodies in F1 to move away from alcohol sponsorship".
"Alcohol sponsorship of motorsport generates seriously mixed messages about drink driving and road safety," added Katherine Brown, Director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, UK, "and contradicts the spirit of current EU rules on alcohol advertising. A common sense approach would be to stop alcohol companies from this risky business of sponsoring Formula 1."
"Alcohol advertising and sponsorship appeared to be common in F1 racing," said Dr Kerry O'Brien, behavioural scientist at Monash University, Australia, "however, to date there had been no research on the extent and nature of alcohol advertising in this sport. The data clearly shows that alcohol advertising and sponsorship in F1 is extensive, at least in the Monaco Grand Prix. It is important that we further examine the extent and impact of alcohol advertising in F1, because its potentially very problematic given previous research showing an association between alcohol advertising and heavier alcohol consumption in young people. Policy makers can then be better positioned regards the need for tighter regulation or bans on alcohol advertising."
The report can be found here. (pdf)