Formula One is not a poor man’s sport. Ever since its conception in 1950, the sport has continuously attracted only the most prestigious and privileged names from every corner of the world, whether it be drivers, teams, and, of course, sponsors. Since it first appeared in the 1968 season, the sport has seen a colorful evolution of sponsorships, starting from cigarettes, then to car brands, until now with the casinos and cryptocurrencies of the 21st century. Let us take a journey through the ages.
The Early Days
Sponsorship is not an innovation of the modern age; the act of financing someone to perform on your behalf has been prevalent since the Roman Empire. In sports, cigarette brands dominated the early history of sponsorship, with records dating back to the 19th century when cigarette companies would include famous baseball players to boost sales and recognition.
As previously said, anything involving money will eventually make it to Formula One. The first-ever sponsored Formula One car was a Gunston-Brabham, and it was the 1968 South African Grand Prix that kicked off the most fiercely contested commercial battles in sports.
Cigarettes’ Dominance And Downfall
By the 1980s, almost every team was sponsored by at least one cigarette company. Most notable were Camel, Rothmans, and Marlboro who had their logos plastered on the fireproof suit of every driver. Many Ferrari models with Marlboro branding on the engine cover and many Williams models with Camel and Rothmans branding became associated with some of the most iconic moments and drivers, say, Schumacher’s five-year tango of dominance, Senna’s fatal collision at Imola, or the Prost-Senna tangle at Suzuka.
But, as the health hazards of cigarettes become more publicly available, more nations begin to regulate or even forbid cigarette advertisements. This led to the downfall of cigarettes as sponsors, with the controversial “Mission Winnow” its final hurrah in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Ironically, some teams like McLaren are now donned with a vape sponsorship, whose perilous effects are indicated to be even worse than those of cigarettes. It is still profitable, though, and that is what matters most to Formula One.
Tech Giants, Oil Entities, And Then Some
As of 2023, Formula One team sponsorships mostly consist of technology and cyber products. Oracle, the title sponsor of the reigning World Champion Red Bull Racing, is one of the largest software companies in the world, whereas Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil production company, has been the title sponsor of Mercedes for over a decade. Perhaps the most iconic tech/innovation sponsor that is still with us is Shell, who has been sponsoring Ferrari since the Schumacher days over two decades ago.
But, of course, where there are established billion-dollar corporations, there also are dodgy, scandalous names in the mix. Rich Energy comes to mind, a shady energy drink company that tried to copy Red Bull and sponsor Haas F1, only to pull out within half a year, citing ‘poor performance.’ Older fans might remember that time a certain bin Laden, or, as it turned out, his father’s construction company, managed to etch his name onto the championship-winning Williams.
Casino(s) Royale And Crypto-mania
Finally, the 2020s arrived with the pandemic, dwindling sponsors, and some…interesting new entries.
Cryptocurrency companies became omnipresent, with all ten constructors having at least one crypto-related sponsor in 2022. The fall of FTX, Mercedes’ sponsor, and the following crypto winter put an end to that.
Casinos and betting companies are now more present than ever. In fact, the Sauber team has recently been rebranded to Stake F1 Team, a prominent casino website, and could possibly become the first-ever casino team in Formula One. While the name has been subject to hilarious memes and fierce discussions online, it has only gone to show how fiercely contested Formula One is as a commercial market.
While Stake might be a wealthy online casino that can finance an entire Formula One team, it is far from the best! Join happyluke instead, where you will be able to play so many casino games and other betting games. Who knows? One day, you might earn enough fortune to sponsor a Formula One team of your choice!