Blog: Olly WehringFormula 1 Feedback

Olly Wehring | 8 February 2006

Prior to last week’s missive from Paris, you may recall I voiced my confusion over the trifling matter of alcoholic drinks companies sponsoring Formula 1 teams. To recap, I asked for your opinions on what I felt was a grey area.

Well, talk about stirring up a hornets’ nest. Here are just some of the comments you wrote in with:

“Surely the point about the use of alcohol, or any other product, is about using it in a manner that shows responsibility to one’s own wellbeing and that of others. There is no harm in a racing driver or any other driver relaxing with a drink or two, provided they respect the old ‘eight hours from bottle to throttle’ rule.

“As you say, it’s all very complex and down to personal choices and values. The drinks industry should actively encourage responsible drinking but should not beat itself up if, despite this, its products are misused by a minority. This misuse is part of much broader set of issues about our society and the attitudes that exist within it.”


“I’m really surprised at Diageo because it has always tried to keep to both the spirit and the letter of the law. To align Johnnie Walker with F1 seems counter-intuitive. It’s because government ‘faceless-bureaucrat-out-of-touch-with-consumer-type’ campaigns don’t usually work, that industries, which do have an influence in the sphere of responsible drinking and driving - especially ones with strong, desirable imagery such as JW - should put out clear, uncompromising messages on the issue. To me, it’s a black and white case.”


“Many years ago, I was in charge of marketing communications for Seagram Distillers and every year I turned down requests for sponsorship of fast-moving automobiles. The philosophy then was that alcohol and fast driving don’t go well together. One accident to that car and the headlines will roar ‘Alcohol speedster crashes’. In those days it was a given that regardless of the audience and broader coverage than just the race, it’s not the right place to promote a distilled spirit brand.

“When did that change in the hunt for increasing stock prices? In those days Seagram never got much higher than US$35-$40 a share, possibly because the major stockholders recognised the pitfalls of antisocial behaviour and settled for lower dividends rather than bringing back Prohibition.”


“Formula 1 equates to ‘Bull fights’ justified by cultures that play to emotions not logic. Scientific factual data demonstrates speed and alcohol kill. Politicians take ‘donations’ in return for protection. For the record, smoking is still allowed, even though health costs reflect the community’s cost to support self-destruction. Profits not principles rule.”

Many thanks to those of you who tried to clarify the issue! As I feared, it seems that the only given in this matter is that it will continue to divide the industry.


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