Analysis Sponsorship

France says don’t drink and advertise – F1 hit with alcohol sponsorship ban at French GP

Formula 1 and its teams are competing at the French Grand Prix with their alcohol sponsors facing censorship in accordance with local laws.

The French advertising laws Loi Évin[1] (Evin’s Law) have struck Formula 1 and the teams harder in 2021 compared to previous years, where now none of the alcohol-based sponsors are allowed to have any of their products represented during the weekend – regardless if the products contain zero traces of alcohol.

Alcohol advertising – much like tobacco advertising – has seen many discussions over the years about the legal nature of advertising products that have certain restrictions on the purchasing ability.

In 1991, France became one of the first countries to tackle down alcohol advertising with the Evin’s Law, which would be lessened over the years with barely any regulation in place.

Since then many countries have followed France’s stance against advertising restricted products, causing alcohol beverage companies to attempt combating it with ideas such as slogans, blanked signage and creating zero-alcohol alternative products.

Article L.3321-1 of the French Public Health Code defines alcoholic beverages as those that contain more than 1.2% of alcohol, thus, technically allowed advertising of alcohol-free alternatives.

However, article L.3323-3[2] of Evin’s Law states that “propaganda or indirect advertising is considered to be propaganda or advertising in favour of an organisation, service, activity, product or article other than an alcoholic beverage which, by its graphic design, presentation, use of a name, brand, advertising emblem or other distinctive sign, recalls an alcoholic beverage”.

In May 2020, the Court of Cassation sanctioned Phénix de Grimbergen for unlawful advertising and legitimised the strict application of the Evin’s Law after overturning the Court of Appeal’s initial decision in 2018.

This prevents the producers from advertising their 0% alcohol products as they are then considered as “indirect” advertisements of their alcoholic versions.

Motorsport and alcohol is no unusual combination, as its advertising can be dated back to the late 1960s, with brands such as Martini & Rossi and Campari setting the stage for a luxurious platform for beverage companies.

As the 2020 French Grand Prix was cancelled due to COVID-19, the results of the strict application of this legislation could only be seen during the 2021 season.

Formula 1 has the premium Dutch beer brand Heineken as a global partner, which branding has been completely omitted for the weekend in France.

© Antonin Vincent

Alfa Romeo are signed with Singha Corporation, Thai drinks company, which has decided to replace all existing collateral branding with Singha Drinking Water (น้ำดื่มสิงห์).

Earlier in the year, both Aston Martin and Ferrari signed new beverage partners in Peroni (Asahi) and Estrella Galícia 0.0, respectively.

Asahi prepared to face the ban by creating a brand-less logotype featuring Peroni’s “blue ribbon” graphic with text mentioning its Roma roots and the year of the beer’s viral sailor advertising campaign.

The same couldn’t be said of Ferrari and Estrella Galícia 0.0, turning up to the track without any censorship in place up until Friday’s Free Practice 2, when they removed all decals depicting the Galician beer altogether.

[1] formally “loi no 91-32 du 10 janvier 1991 relative à la lutte contre le tabagisme et l’alcoolisme” (transl. “Law No. 91-32 of January 10, 1991 relating to the fight against smoking and alcoholism”)


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