The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare), a group of 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 the FIA President Jean Todt to express concern about alcohol sponsorship in Formula 1, citing the involvement of Johnny Walker, Smirnoff and Martini in the sport. The alliance is requesting “an end to alcohol sponsorship in Formula 1” and expects rapid action from the FIA. The alliance says that it is “deeply concerned of the heavy marketing exercise seen in Formula 1 and is therefore requesting an urgent change”. The organization says that “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” and claims that “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.”
This smacks of the same kind of campaign that led to tobacco being phased out of the sport but the alliance claims that it is unjustified to argue that the removal of alcohol sponsorships will be a significant financial blow to the sport. There is only one way to find out if this is the case and it is fair to say that, for all the bluster, the Eurocare people will not be caring much if two teams collapse as a result of losing their support – which could happen. The arguments against such a ban are just the same as they were against the tobacco industry with the usual counter arguments that if a product is bad for people then the product should be banned, rather than banning the advertising of the product, and the fact that governments make squillions from taxing alcohol.
The letter is signed by Mariann Skar, who is Secretary General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance and copies of the letter have been sent to Bernard Ecclestone, various European Commissioners and World Health Organisation officials.
One cannot help but wonder whether or not there is more than a little manipulation going on here, because an ban on alcohol sponsorship would be hurting two of the most exposed F1 teams at the moment, at a time when finding new sponsors is anything but easy. The question is: who is behind such activity and who stands to gain from it? I am pretty sure that this is not happening by accident.