Gambling Firms Look Set To Fill F1’s Cigarettes & Alcohol Void
Until the mid-2000s much of Formula 1’s revenue was derived from cigarette companies.
Sponsorship of teams dates back to 1968 and has flourished but, at the start of the 2000 season, Williams F1 became the first and only team not to have a tobacco company as a sponsor.
Tobacco sponsorship has now gone, and the sport along with its teams are currently witnessing ever-increasing restrictions on the promotion of alcohol as governments worldwide are clamping down on its promotion.
F1 has countered by promoting a ‘don’t drink and drive’ message and Heineken, a partner of F1, only uses the sport to promote its alcohol-free beverages. The pair have been bedfellows since 2016 when they signed a deal reputedly worth a quarter of a billion dollars.
But the clouds are thickening on the alcoholic drinks companies. In the summer of 2021 French authorities insisted no alcohol-based sponsors were allowed to have any of their products represented during the race weekend. That was regardless of the products containing zero traces of alcohol.
The facetious are free to speculate when it will be deemed politically incorrect to spray champagne during trophy ceremonies. It is already outlawed at the Bahrain Grand Prix on religious grounds. In Sakhir, successful drivers spray a non-alcoholic rosewater drink called Waard during the podium celebrations.
So what is next on the Formula 1 sponsorship radar? There are energy drinks companies but one, Red Bull, already has a very strong foothold in the sport and it is unlikely a rival will want to enter an arena where they cannot compete.
The answer appears to be the gambling sector. Bernie Ecclestone rebuffed advances from betting sites throughout his time in charge but under the ownership of Liberty Media, who bought F1 for $4.6 billion in 2017, attitudes have changed.
There had been some involvement between teams and gambling firms in the past. In 2000 a company called Eurobet backed the Arrows-Supertec team. 2010 saw Full Tilt Poker support the Marussia Virgin F1 Racing and if you look very closely at Alfa Romeo’s F1 car in late 2019 you might have spotted some relatively small Betsafe logos.
But there has been a significant ramping-up of activity in recent times indicating the sport itself sees the gambling sector as a potentially rich revenue stream.
In September 2018 a partnership between Formula 1, the Interregional Sports Group and Sportradar was signed. Subsequently, from the first race of 2019, data was relayed live from race circuits, converted into odds, and then offered to customers of certain F1 betting sites.
In 2020 a five-year deal was signed between 188Bet and Formula 1. It has resulted in the online sports betting and casino site’s logo being displayed on virtual trackside advertising for races that are broadcast in the Asia region.
During summer 2021 PokerStars signed a similar agreement with Formula 1. They have the same virtual trackside advertising tied down for the European viewing market until 2023.
No to be outdone, Entain – the owners of Party Poker and Party Casino – entered a multi-year partnership with the McLaren Racing Team ahead of the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix.
The ‘Party’ logos are prominently displayed on the team’s cars and both sites run ongoing promotions whereby customers can win merchandise, tickets and luxury VIP corporate race days at forthcoming Grand Prix.
What next? Will the floodgates open as they did with Premier League football? During the 2019/20 football season half of all Premier League teams had a bookmaker logo displayed on their shirt.
In addition to ten top-flight teams, no less than 17 of the 24 football clubs in the Championship – England’s second tier – had a deal in place whereby their players’ shirts featured the logos of football betting sites.
These are remarkable figures considering prior to the 2002/03 season – when Betfair sponsored Fulham – no major football team featured a gambling logo on their home or away strips.
Play Your Cards Right
If football is anything to go by, we can certainly expect more online gambling sites to jump on the high-speed bandwagon that is Formula 1. GGPoker might be amongst those seeking a partnership with a Formula 1 team.
GGPokerhas been duelling with PokerStars for supremacy of the online poker market for much of 2021. No presence at televised spectacles which regularly attract over 100 million viewers could see GGPoker give away valuable ground to their rivals.
A partnership with the Haas F1 Team could be a good fit as GGPoker has its eyes on entering the US market and Haas is an American team. Then again, they could follow 188Bet and PokerStars’ lead by buying some virtual trackside signposting.
That prime real-estate may have been sold-off for Europe and Asia but the ‘for sale’ sign might still be up on the North and South America regions.
You can bet there are plenty of betting companies making inquiries. You can also bet on the outcome of any race while enjoying a cold zero-alcohol beer and a nicotine-free cigarette.
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