Have you enjoyed the return of the striking Martini livery to the Williams Formula One team this season? Of course you have, because you have eyes. But if the Paris-based European Alcohol Policy Alliance has their way, alcohol sponsorships in F1 would become a thing of the past.
In an open letter to FIA president Jean Todt reprinted over at Autoblog, the group's (also called Eurocare) secretary general Mariann Skar wrote that in light of the 6,500 road deaths related to alcohol in 2010, the association between driving and booze should be downplayed, and thus F1 should ban its alcohol sponsors like Martini. From the letter:
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.
Skar also said alcohol sponsorship in F1 may already be banned by existing European Union rules, which prohibit alcohol marketing that is linked to driving. Also, some countries where F1 races are held already ban alcohol advertising, including Russia and several Muslim nations.
Now, I have no doubt that Eurocare's heart is in the right place. No one thinks drinking and driving is a good idea, and the statistics behind drunk driving deaths speak for themselves — in the U.S., we counted 13,365 alcohol-related freeway fatalities in 2010 alone.
My problem is that I don't really see how removing alcohol sponsorship from F1 will cut back on those deaths in any continent. The connection between advertising on racing cars and drunk driving deaths seems dubious at best. Also, texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, and I don't hear anyone griping about those sponsorships.
And if there's anything we learned from the 2014 season, it's that it's getting too damn expensive to run in F1, especially for smaller teams. As teams are struggling to afford to run, losing big sponsors like Martini could mean a big hit.
Eurocare says the same remarks were made when tobacco was forced out of F1, and it's still around; I'd argue that even as a non-smoker, I miss the tobacco companies, because they had some of the best liveries.
We'll see what Todt decides to do, but I'd hate to see that Martini livery go away.