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Sports Betting Sponsorships: A new era for Formula One?

by Ralph Trayfalgar Updated:

Of all of the major motorsport racing leagues in the world, Formula One or F1 is widely considered to be the one that holds the most glamour and prestige. Over the past 7 decades, Formula One has woven legendary drivers and jaw-dropping moments into the tapestry of car racing history. 

A not-insignificant part of the glamour behind Formula One could actually be attributed to the dozens of brands and sponsors that have allowed the sport to flourish and expand the way that it has. Many such sponsors have come and gone as the sport continued to evolve over the years.

Recently, however, sports betting and online casino partnerships have officially entered Formula One, most notably in the 2020 season when 188Bet was signed on as a betting partner for Asia. This move has elicited a lot of concerns about its negative influence on the sport and its fans.

But was it actually all that bad? In this article, we will be looking at the history of Formula One and the events leading up to sports betting's entry into the sport to find out. 

Historical Precedent

Complaints and backlash about the harmful impact of F1's sponsors are not new to the sport by any means. Of these, tobacco companies are arguably the most notable and controversial. 

Tobacco companies have been sponsoring Formula One teams since at least the 1960s, and have been responsible for both partly funding development of and gracing the liveries of several legendary vehicles over the sport's history. Notable mentions here include the Lotus John Player Special cars in the 70s and McLaren's Marlboro-liveried cars in the 80s. 

Alcohol companies also made large sponsorship contributions to Formula One during the early decades of the sport, being found on both team liveries and racetrack barrier boards alike. Two names that most people will probably recognise are Martini and Heineken

The Ban Wave

As most people are probably already aware, tobacco sponsorships in Formula One were banned by the FIA in 2001 following widespread pushback in the mainstream due to the fatal health effects of cigars and cigarettes alike. 

The European Union also passed laws phasing out tobacco advertising with a total ban in place by the year 2005; given the fact that much of the F1 race calendar happened in Europe, this effectively sealed the fate of tobacco sponsorships in the sport around this point.

Gambling companies, however, have never been found on any official Formula One media thanks to an organization-wide ban on betting sponsorships enacted and enforced by former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

A Changing of the Guard

Formula One would eventually be sold to American entertainment firm Liberty Media in 2016, with the transition period concluding with Ecclestone stepping down from his CEO position in 2018. 

Now under the direction of Chase Carey, Formula One veered into a new direction. In particular, Formula One would redouble its marketing efforts in the US to more deeply tap into one of the largest sources of racing viewers in the world (do remember that the US is also home to IndyCar and NASCAR). F1 under Ecclestone's leadership, meanwhile, largely neglected the American market especially after the fiasco of the 2005 US Grand Prix in Indianapolis.

One major outcome to this new direction was the addition of the Miami Grand Prix to the race calendar for 2022 with a new street circuit in the works for a Las Vegas F1 race in 2023, giving the United States three races next year for American fans to finally flock to. The Drive to Survive series on Netflix also helped massively to rekindle interest in F1 in the US. 

The other, of course, is the introduction of gambling sponsors into the sport. 

Sports Betting in Formula One: Good or Bad?

With all of this in mind, what will sports betting sponsorships in F1 actually do to the sport? Regardless of your opinions on the matter, sports betting sponsorships will only bring positive benefits to F1's teams, and by extension, the sport as a whole. 

Now, before you discount our take as being biased on account of us being a casino affiliate site, hear us out for a bit. 

It's important to note that, despite the bans and restrictions on tobacco and alcohol sponsorships, the fact of the matter is that these companies actually continue to have their stake in Formula One teams. 

Although the FIA added a rule to ban tobacco advertising in 2001, this was actually pared back to a simple "recommendation" in 2003, where it remains to this day. 

As a result, Marlboro continues to sponsor the Ferrari F1 team just as they had since the 2000s.  The only major difference being that the team liveries and race suits don't directly reference Marlboro's logos. Instead, these sponsorships are actually visible outside of F1; take, for example, Marlboro's “red is inspiration” ad campaign and Philip Morris International's Mission Winnow subsidiary. 

As for sports betting, its involvement in F1 sponsorships will likely not do much in sowing negative influences on racing fans. Given the dozens of other much larger benefactors to the sport, a logo here and there from an F1 sports betting platform would be just another tiny detail in the already very crowded liveries of modern F1 cars. 

In addition, there is as yet little evidence to suggest that non-gamblers will even be enticed to start online real money gambling because of ads in Formula One, as only those who have already decided on betting will do so in the first place. The most that sponsorships from sports betting sites will actually do is convince bettors to use one platform over the other.

Wrap-Up: The Future of Formula One Sponsorships

Sponsorships almost always provide positive benefits for Formula One teams and the sport as a whole. The additional influx of cash from sponsors directly improves the partner team's ability to compete, resulting in closer and more exciting competition that creates the legendary moments that F1 is known for. F1 now working directly with betting providers such as Pokerstars Canada, also gives bettors access to higher-quality insights that drastically enhance the online wagering experience.

Sports betting sites entering into Formula One can only be seen as a good thing, and we at InsideCasino are excited to see what the sport will bring for us in this new era of Formula One. 

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