One of the major changes in motorsport these days is just how the way sponsorship of major teams in racing series have evolved with the times, as in days gone by, things were so much different. In the 1980s and 1990s, tobacco brands such as Marlboro, John Player Special, Camel and Rothmans were big sponsors of the top F1 teams, which included McLaren, Scuderia Ferrari, Williams and Lotus.
It was considered normality in those days, unlike the health-conscious world we know now, with the bright white and red livery of Ayrton Senna’s MP4-4 rushing around the streets of Monte Carlo in 1988, when an impressionable 11-year-old was clearly captivated, and hooked on motorsport from then on, predominately Formula One until now.
Now over 25 years later, it really is surprising just how the landscape has really changed, with energy drink companies such as Lucozade, Monster Energy, Burn, Rockstar, EQ8 and the biggest of them all, Red Bull, being the most dominant sponsors in racing series today. Let us not forget that exposure for sponsors is now clearly stated in any contracts that are signed with either drivers, riders or teams, with prominent liveries making the respective brands stand to the fore.
What could be considered as a complete no-no now, would be the fact the when Finnish driver Keke Rosberg signed for McLaren in the middle of the 1985 season, he was quick to show allegiance to which cigarette brand he was tied to – Marlboro, and then subsequently “sparked one up” in the press conference.
Anti-tobacco promotion campaigns had started out several decades ago, with the UK banning sponsorship of major sporting events on the 30th July 2003, which saw the beginning of the end of these brands being a part of the major signage in many globally broadcasted events just two years later. This paved the way for how the teams would address their sponsorship issues for the future, especially when the tobacco brands started to remove their significant financial inputs into the teams. This then brought forward new opportunities for other major brands to jump on the bandwagon, and in the last decade, energy drink firms have made it clear their intention to compete for the top share of the market, no matter where their product is placed. Red Bull appears to be top dog in the current field of sponsors that cover a very broad spectrum, especially as the fact that their riders and drivers are amongst the best in the world.
Just to think that some of the top names in racing, like the “Hoonigan” Ken Block, “The Doctor” Valentino Rossi, Sebastian Vettel, Travis Pastrana, Lewis Hamilton have a deal worked out with these companies, either directly or indirectly, so promotion is really key to help the latest flavours flying off the shelves, thanks to the abundant purchases by the general public.
So think about this… where does the majority of the money comes from, when a talented racer signs an energy drink deal? It does come from the revenue streams that are generated by said companies, with carefully planned marketing strategies across the globe to generate interest and sales. We all have our favourites per say, but business is key to ensuring that sponsorship in motorsport continues brightly for the future, as these companies clearly have a major foothold in this health-conscious society that we are all a part of. What could be the next big market giant to explode into the arena of sponsorship? We’ll have to wait and see…