Sauber’s rotating Stake identity could face legal challenge


Swiss outfit Sauber says it will continue this season its strategy of alternating its identity between primary sponsor Stake and its sister company Kick, depending on local gambling regulations at each Grand Prix.

Last year, under its Alfa Romeo guise, the Hinwil squad’s partnership with Stake, an online gambling platform, was already subject to this dynamic.

While displayed on the car itself, Stake's branding had to be replaced with ‘Kick’, its sister company, in countries with stricter gambling restrictions. This resulted in special liveries for races in Australia, Spain, Qatar, and most notably, Belgium.

This season, Stake's prominent placement in the team name creates a bigger hurdle in jurisdictions where it can't be advertised, meaning the ‘Kick’ identity might become more frequent.

"As you know, last year we alternated two different names according to the different countries where we go racing,” said Sauber team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi in London on Monday.

“We will be fully complying with all the local applicable laws and where Stake is prohibited, so gambling advertising is prohibited, we will use a different name.

“As last year, we have Kick as one of our most important partners – our chassis name is a Kick Sauber – so where we are not going to race as Stake F1 Team, we will use a second team name."

While the Stake/Kick rotation might raise questions about team consistency and potentially confuse fans, it has already attracted the scrutiny of Switzerland’s Federal Casino Commission according to Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen.

Gamble advertising is banned in the team’s home country, but the Commission’s issue is that the Stake name is now a part of the F1 outfit’s identity, and that could trigger legal woes for Sauber.

Patrick Kraeuskopf, a professor of competition law at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, cited in the SRF report, said the team may have crossed a red legal line within its own country.

“In the present case, the brands Stake and Sauber are so linked together, or the term Stake is so strongly imprinted in the minds of viewers, that we have probably crossed the red line into unauthorised advertising,” said Kraeuskopf.

It is estimated that Sauber’s title sponsorship deal with Stake and kick could be worth as much as $50 million.

Amidst the potential sponsorship and legal maze, Alluni Bravi is adamant that the team will “always comply with all applicable laws, including in Switzerland.”

“And of course, we took all measures to comply with them.”

The team's adaptability will be tested, and fans might have to adjust to seeing their favorite car sport different names depending on the race location.

Regardless, Alluni Bravi highlighted the team's increased marketing freedom post-Alfa Romeo.

“This year, of course, for us it's easier: we have a new and clear identity,” he said.

“We start here with an event that I think is a testament of what we want to do with a new motto for the team, 'unleashed', that for us means really the way we want to communicate, the way we want to be perceived.

“Of course, this also needs to be supported by the results on track. We are all working together to deliver a better job and more performance. It is important that we have everything.

“An F1 team is not just a racing team. Of course, it's a large operation. And we need to work on all the areas, on track, off track, on the technical side, also on the commercial side.

“And with Stake I think we will achieve important targets that will bring an added value also to F1."

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