New database reveals 25% drop in F1 sponsorship since 2005

Formula Money announced the release of a new website today called Sponsorship Database in which they have taken on the monumental task of attempting to document sponsor involvement in the sport of Formula 1.

There’s no doubt that pulling this information together would be quite a task and harvesting all the information is just one of the challenges. Aggregating it into a useful tool for fans, pundits, existing and future sponsors would be even more arduous but that’s what they’ve done.

The database covers team sponsorship, series partnership deals, race title sponsorships, trackside advertising, and team owner spending. It’s a long list of key elements and the data covers 989 companies, with more than 5,000 separate entries, generating almost $28 billion in deals over 14 years of data.

I spent some quality time on the site inspecting how F1 had changed in sponsorship dollar and in particular, large company investments such as Marlboro and other key sponsors for large teams. Present day F1 is very different to 2005 when the biggest sponsors were tobacco companies, spending almost a quarter of a billion dollars between them in the last full year before advertising restrictions drove them from the sport.

Back then, the average team sponsorship budget was $101.2 million – the highest annual total during the date range of the database – compared to $77.3 million in 2018. That’s quite a difference and if you’re new to F1 and have heard us mention the “tobacco money” days, this is what we are referring to. What I have found interesting is the inability to lure new industries such as tech into a sport that, for me, is heavily weighted towards tech.

The database struck me as a very useful tool for sponsors and potential sponsors of F1 to research as part of their propensity-to-buy and predictive consumer demographics. I spoke with the site’s owner, Formula Money, and found the site easy to navigate and productive categorically speaking in order to search sponsorship dollars via many different classifications.

Using the database, Formula Money was able to deduce from their metrics:

Total team sponsorship came to an estimated $772.5m in 2018, compared to more than $1bn in 2013. Although the drop was partly accounted for by a reduction in the number of teams from 11 to 10, this was not the main factor in the decline as the average sponsorship haul per team also fell by over 18%.

The findings reflect the concerns of several team bosses who have admitted that it is increasingly difficult to find sponsors in a climate where traditional properties such as sports teams are competing against social media. Although total team sponsorship was up by 11% on 2017 – driven by Sauber’s new title sponsorship from Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin’s expanded deal with Red Bull Racing – it was still the second lowest annual total since Formula Money started assessing sponsorship values in 2005.

Formula Money calculates that in 2018 198 companies fueled 229 team sponsorship deals, with an average value of $3.4 million. The biggest of these deals was Malaysian oil giant Petronas’s title sponsorship of world champion, Mercedes, at an estimated annual $75 million. However, this did not make Mercedes the best sponsored team. That title went to Ferrari, with a total sponsorship budget calculated at $171.5 million.

It’s a lot of work and Christian has put a lot of hours into creating a site that measures one aspect of F1 and indeed, it may just be one of the most important aspects, where the money comes from. If you like getting into the numbers of F1 or are a prospective sponsor, then this website will be a very handy tool in assessing the total pool of dollars that buoys the entire sport.

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Interesting, I assume these numbers don’t take into account inflation as well? So the real world drop is likely a lot higher. (£1m in 2005 is £1.4m ISH now).

Could you argue that the move to pay TV in general has changed how money has come in to the sport with more through TV rights rather than exposure?

Also the sport is always pulling itself apart, I think the new ownership has probably not really come into effect in this dynamic yet. Also hopefully formula e and the seeming resurgence of indy should bring more eyes to Motorsport in general.