In Formula 1 terms, crypto products are actually the “new tobacco” of sport: products are controversial, brands are loaded with money, have limited global marketing platforms, and fit into the living image of F1.
Likewise, as many are discovering in France and elsewhere, advertising for these products is not only increasingly regulated, but the applicable laws are extremely vague.
Eight out of ten teams currently have crypto partners of some sort, with Williams and Haas as outliers. Indeed, some teams have two such partners: Alfa Romeo, with Vauld and Floki, and Red Bull Racing, which are associated by ByBit and Tezos, the latter shared with McLaren. F1 and Aston Martin, both of which have signed deals with Crypto.com, are also on a divided football.
Another complication is that the term “crypto” covers a variety of products, namely virtual currencies, trading platforms and virtual wallets.
Taking into account that some brands, such as controversial Alpine sponsor Binance, are made up of trade and some form of cryptocurrency, and the matter becomes extremely complex, with teams forced to seek legal advice on what is licensed in France, included Financial Markets Authority regulates the national financial markets.
Depending on the products and markets affected, some products are registered with MFA, others are pending approval, and still others are outside the scope of MFA. Hence, the great confusion, with teams and sponsors generally erring on the side of caution. So who is affected and who is not?
Teams explain crypto branding decisions
Starting with Crypto.com, a spokesperson explained RacingNews365.com the reasons for his decision to become invisible for the race.
“Crypto.com has decided that they will not exercise their trademark rights for this race,” said the spokesperson, “but it remains the global partner of F1 and we expect those rights to be exploited in other ways in future races.” The same decision applies to its partnership with Aston Martin.
Red Bull Racing displayed both of its logos over the weekend after discussions with its cryptocurrency sponsors, saying, “Our legal team is aware of the situation and we are in communication with our partners.”
Mercedes also sought legal advice on displaying the FTX branding before making the same decision. Ferrari sponsor Velas is blockchain-based and therefore does not fall within the scope of the MFA.
“Velas Network AG has informed us that it does not provide services that would require registration with the [AMF] and therefore there is no advertising ban regarding the use of the Velas logo on Scuderia Ferrari assets in relation to the French GP, “said a spokesperson. RacingNews365.com.
In a statement, McLaren confirmed that the team is aware of the recent updates on advertising restrictions on cryptocurrencies and has been working closely with partner OKX on the matter. He raced with that partner’s branding over the French Grand Prix weekend, the statement concluded, adding that the team was unable to comment on the Tezos branding.
Alpine has confirmed that it has removed all Binance branding for this race from all driver clothing, racing cars and trailers, and even team letterhead as a precaution. A spokesperson for Fantom’s digital ecosystem partner AlphaTauri said: “Knowing the regulations here in France regarding cryptocurrency, after discussions with our partner, it was decided to avoid any advertising on French soil.”
Alfa Romeo also removed any reference to cryptocurrency partners, stating: “The team complies with all French regulations regarding advertising of cryptocurrency partners on the car. We were informed that to display the logo of a cryptocurrency partner in France, the cryptocurrency brand must be registered with the MFA, which is not the case with two of our cryptocurrency partners.
“Therefore, both the Vauld (currency platform) and Floki (cryptocurrency) brands will not be on our car this weekend.”
Historically strict French laws
That such restrictions are imposed in France is not surprising to the F1 community: the country has for many years the strictest anti-tobacco, alcohol and gambling laws in Europe, as Williams discovered for this race in 2018: it was necessary to remove any Martini markings, not only for the race but also for the transit through France from the previous race and the next race.
However, the word is that the situation will get much more complicated. There is already talk of bans across the EU on the marketing of some cryptocurrencies and platforms. Therefore, teams will need to be even more diligent in choosing crypto partners.