Formula One has announced a major sponsorship deal with brewer Heineken worth around pounds 150-million which the drinks giant vows will revolutionise the sport, making it as big as the Champions League.
The agreement, due to last for seven years with a break clause at the end of 2020, should mean a sport which has almost no central marketing budget is promoted like never before.
The Dutch company has pledged to transform the way F1 is presented on social media, an area the sport’s chief Bernie Ecclestone has been critical of in the past, and take the sport to millions of new fans.
Amid declining television audiences, falling from 600 million to 400 million over the past decade, and with the increasing switch to pay television, this is welcome news for a sport often mired in its own spiral of negativity.
Sir Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion, and David Coulthard, the 13-time grand prix winner, will be brand ambassadors for a partnership that will make Heineken title sponsor for three races a year.
There are no plans for Heineken branding on any cars, but the firm is working on being -involved with teams such as Red Bull in other ways.Gianluca Di Tondo, Heineken senior director, said the company had reached 2.5-billion people with its campaigns around this year’s Uefa Champions League, and believed the same could be done with Formula One.
“We are aiming to replicate 100 per cent the success of the Champions League,” Di Tondo said.
“Can we make F1 as big as the Champions League? Honestly, I think so. The point is to go beyond the races, and that is so important.”
Heineken adds its brand to a host of controversial alcohol sponsorships in the sport, including Johnnie Walker and Chandon at McLaren, Martini at Williams, and Smirnoff at Force India.
There had been moves to ban the branding in the European Parliament but these have faded for now.
The deal immediately came -under fire from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance and Di Tondo said Heineken would spend 30 per cent of its F1 communications budget on “if you drive, never drink” promotions.