Formula 1 may have a fresh sponsorship crisis on its hands, amid calls for the FIA to ban alcohol sponsorship in motorsport.

A group called the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare), which comprises 57 public health organisations from 25 European countries who are all working on the prevention and reduction of alcohol related problems, has written an open letter to FIA President Jean Todt to express its concerns about alcohol sponsorship in the sport.

The series features a number of major alcohol company sponsors – principally Diageo (Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff), Martini & Rossi (Martini), the Beckmann family (Jose Cuervo) and United Breweries (Kingfisher) – and Eurocare has written that it is “deeply concerned [with] the heavy marketing exercise seen in Formula 1 and is therefore requesting an urgent change.”

“Allowing alcohol sponsorship in Formula 1 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,” its letter – also circulated to Bernie Ecclestone and the World Health Organisation – adds.

“It 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.”

McLaren and Johnnie Walker

McLaren has enjoyed the long-term sponsorship of the Johnnie Walker whiskey brand.

This latest campaign bears many resemblances to the campaign that ultimately led to tobacco sponsorship being banned from the sport in the mid-2000s. It cost the teams millions in sponsorship revenue, even though Ferrari continues to be quietly sponsored by Marlboro parent Philip Morris to the tune of around $100 million a year.

Eurocare clearly doesn’t seem to care what impact the banning of alcohol sponsorship will have on the already tenuous bottom line of a number of teams in a market where sourcing sponsorship revenue is proving extremely difficult.

Of course there is the usual counter-argument that if the product is indeed that harmful, then it should the product itself – rather than the advertising of it – which should be banned.

The FIA is yet to respond.

Images via XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.