Because advertising for online casinos is banned in Switzerland, proceedings are now underway against Sauber. The team from Hinwil anticipated this – and took precautions.
Completely in poison green: The new C44 guarantees the Sauber team a lot of attention.
Frank Augstein / AP
Attention is an important currency in Formula 1, which is why teams and sponsors do everything they can to better position themselves compared to their competitors in the booming racing series.
Only the top teams from Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari can rely on the effectiveness of sporting successes, the aura of great racing drivers or their tradition alone. All other racing teams in the field of ten have to compete hard for main sponsors, which has not become easier despite the growing reach of the premier class of motorsport. After all, it’s about advertising money of ten million francs or more – per season.
Sauber has achieved a coup with the new racing car
Seen in this way, Sauber Motorsport AG has achieved a particularly eye-catching coup with the presentation of the C44 racing car; the vehicle with its bright green applications will certainly be one of the most eye-catching in racing. However, the word “poisonous” also applies in other respects. Because with the renaming to “Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber”, which was unpopular with the fans and apparently also by the Formula 1 organization, the team from Hinwil has attracted rather unwanted attention.
The C44, Unleashed 💚🖤 pic.twitter.com/On1VpWLVmx
— Stake F1 Team (@stakef1team) February 5, 2024
SRF reported that the Federal Casino Commission has initiated proceedings against Sauber. This is about the new namesake Stake, which is often described as an “entertainment brand”. But this is an Australian crypto casino that also offers sports betting.
In some countries where Formula 1 races take place, advertising for gambling is prohibited; only the sister company Kick, a streaming platform that is not subject to the restrictions, should be advertised there. This trick is called “alternative team name”, which suggests that Sauber had already expected headwinds.
Stake was already covered in certain races last year, when the sponsors were still much smaller on the cars. But now that the entire team is called that according to the wishes of the marketing department, it becomes more difficult. SRF Sport has decided not to name Stake due to the advertising ban on illegal gambling games in Switzerland. According to “Tagesschau”, team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi reacted calmly to the threatened fine of up to 500,000 francs: “We always comply with all applicable laws, including in Switzerland. And of course we have taken all measures to comply with them.” The Italian lawyer should know exactly what is at stake.
The creative way of raising money has accompanied Formula 1 since the end of the 1960s, when the classic advertising partners from the automobile and supplier industries were replaced by tobacco and beverage companies. In terms of image, it fit well; at that time, world champion James Hunt first reached for a cigarette and then for the winner’s trophy.
The cars became racing advertising columns, and some racing teams and racing cars became synonymous with their sponsors. Lotus, for example, with John Player Special, but especially Ferrari with Marlboro. The proud Scuderia even matched the sacred color of its cars to the red of the American brand. The beverage industry was also eager to join in, although it found it more difficult to distract from the incompatibility of alcohol and driving in its advertising messages. The race track that we know today as “Le Castellet” was then called “Paul Ricard” – after the founder of the Pastis brand. This didn’t bother anyone, as the high-tech series was already costing huge amounts of money back then. All wealthy sponsors were welcome.
After advertising bans or self-restrictions initially applied in many European countries, other branded goods companies came into play, including banks and insurance companies for a while, and today primarily companies from the digital industry. Nevertheless, the Marlboro parent company Philipp Morris always maintained its Ferrari sponsorship, even when the strict EU guidelines came into force in 2005.
The logo and name of the cigarette had long since disappeared from the car, but a bar code and geometric elements suggested to the casual glance that what was no longer allowed to be there was still there. A few years ago, the company launched a discussion platform called “Mission Winnow,” which Ferrari was able to officially advertise again. But the disguised image advertising was exposed and was withdrawn for fear of lawsuits.
The corporations always found ways to place advertising on the racing cars
With a wink, the German cigarette brand West renamed itself East in countries with advertising bans; the repainting was easy to accomplish. From 1998 to 2005, British American Tobacco, one of the world‘s largest tobacco companies, together with Jacques Villeneuve’s manager, launched their own racing team, which was only loosely called “British American Racing”, but the authorities were powerless.
Resourceful advertisers: The cigarette advertising on the racing cars has become increasingly better hidden over the years.
At least alcohol manufacturers have now returned to Formula 1, mostly as main sponsors of the series as a whole or individual race organizers. To justify this, whiskey companies then use the narrative to educate people about the responsible use of alcohol through the popular sport.
Max Verstappen has signed a personal contract with a Dutch beer brand that runs until 2029. The focus is on alcohol-free products. Many former racing drivers, from Jackie Stewart to Mika Häkkinen to Nico Rosberg, also act as seemingly harmless brand ambassadors.