Activists tackle one of Formula 1’s most troubling paradoxes

Sharon Wong
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An anti-drinking group has come to FIA president Jean Todt with a petition to ban alcohol sponsorship after F1’s recent deal with Heineken. 

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo and Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo at the start during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 12, 2016 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo and Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo at the start during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 12, 2016 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Maybe we should find it more disturbing that the world’s highest class of automobile racing operates hand-in-hand with one of its most visible beer brands. After all, aren’t we always telling kids to refrain from drinking and driving? Heineken’s alleged aim with its F1 partnership was to push the message that drunk driving was a no-no, a slogan that was displayed prominently at turn 7 in Montreal. However, the mixed messaging is not winning the European Alcohol Policy Alliance over and its members presented Todt an impassioned letter detailing why.

Source: Ev Safronov/Shutterstock
Source: Ev Safronov/Shutterstock

In the missive, Secretary General Marianne Skar pointed out the inherent contradiction in a brewing company visibly promoting itself while telling its audience not to drink and drive. The supposed moral of the story is lost amidst the normalisation of prevalent alcohol imagery. And the issue didn’t just start with Heineken either.

“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.”

Marianne Skar

Even we have to agree that that sounds excessive, as much as we like our tipple. A motorsports event seems like an odd choice of platform to blatantly promote one of the number one killers on the road. The more we think about it, the more outrageous it all seems and we’re surprised we didn’t notice this disconnect sooner. It’s a powerful testament to the point Skar is trying to make; we are so oversaturated with the ubiquity of alcohol that we think nothing of associating a refreshing pint with driving. It’d be logical to assume we’d have no reservations about taking the next step and downing one before getting behind the wheel.

drunk-driving-gif

Bravo to Marianne Skar and the European Alcohol Policy Alliance for holding F1 responsible for the messages it sends its vast international following.

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