In 2019, the sport of Formula 1 accepted U.S. $100 million in sponsorships from the tobacco industry, making it one of the last global sports series that allows tobacco companies to market their brands and products to fans.
Why is the tobacco industry so eager to sponsor F1? F1 fans are overwhelmingly young, male and affluent—Big Tobacco’s ideal customers. With over six percent of the world’s population watching, this is an audience the industry desperately wants to seduce.
But with a ban on explicitly advertising tobacco products, the industry got creative. Tobacco companies have found ways to keep their brands in front of potential customers by advertising campaigns such as Mission Winnow (Philip Morris International) or A Better Tomorrow (British American Tobacco). Tobacco companies’ spending also gives them access to a two-way advertising street: PMI not only gets to put its branding on the Ferrari team, but has also used Ferrari’s cars in its cigarette ads off the track.
By the close of the 2020 season, Formula 1 will have made U.S. $4.5 billion from tobacco sponsorships over the years, exposing millions of fans to advertisements for harmful and addictive products.
Tobacco has no place in sports. The FIA should live up to its previous commitments and wave the checkered flag on all tobacco sponsorships now.