F1 has been urged to impose a ban on alcohol sponsorship in the wake of its new global partnership with Heineken.
Bernie Ecclestone announced a five-year deal with Heineken during the Canadian Grand Prix which sees the beer giant become a global partner which will include race sponsorships and trackside advertising. While the Heineken brand had a major presence around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend, it also announced it would use the platform to support an initiative to try and tackle drink driving, titled 'If you drive, never drink'.
However, Mariann Skar, Secretary General in the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocrat), has called for F1 to ban alcohol advertising. In an open letter to FIA president Jean Todt, Skar says "F1 is close to becoming more an event for granting the global exposure of alcohol brands than a sporting event".
While the Heineken sponsorship deal is between the Formula One Group and Heineken, not the FIA, Skar also calls on Todt to address the partnership as a result of the FIA's 'Action for Road Safety' campaign, saying "it is therefore worrying that F1 is now bringing the link between alcohol brands and motor sport even closer together".
The full open letter can be read below:
Dear Mr Todt,
Reaction to F1 and its Heineken sponsorship deal
Heineken recently launched their new sponsorship agreements with F1, a five year deal estimated to be worth $150m. With this new deal, Heineken will place themselves as one of the main sponsors of the sport, with event name and circuit branding, TV commercials and other promotional activities.
This is a major concern because alcohol and driving should not be mixed. Alcohol brands are now dominating sponsorships in F1, linking a popular motor sport to one of the major killers on our roads, drink driving.
Alcohol marketing has a powerful effect on society, in particular on young people. As you very well know, F1 is a sport heavily sponsored by alcohol producers, even before this new deal. A report on alcohol brand exposure during the F1 Monaco Grand Prix last year showed that there were on average 11 references to alcohol brands per minute - averaging one every five seconds. The promotion of alcohol alongside iconic sporting events reinforces and exaggerates pro-alcohol social norms. The Monaco Grand Prix has a worldwide audience of around 500 million people, and with the new deal in addition to the previous sponsorship agreement, F1 is close to becoming more an event for granting the global exposure of alcohol brands than a sporting event.
We have previously written to you about this concern, and in your response you declare yours and FIA's commitment to road safety, referring to your work with the 'Action for Road Safety' programme, in addition to yourself being a UN Special Envoy for Road Safety.
We would like to remind you that drink driving is one of the key killers on the road. It is therefore worrying that F1 is now bringing the link between alcohol brands and motor sport even closer together.
We would like to request that you take this issue seriously and consider moving away from these sponsorship agreements, as you did with tobacco sponsorship. FIA is not without responsibilities, being the governing body of F1 and also being one of the shareholders in the sport.
Mariann Skar, Secretary General in the European Alcohol Policy Alliance