How Champagne celebrations became a Formula 1 tradition and a coveted sponsorship deal

The drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari celebrate on the podium after the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix.

Since 2021, Formula 1 races have used Ferrari Trento sparkling wine for podium celebrations.The tradition of rewarding winners with bubbly at F1 races dates back to the 1950 French Grand Prix.Ferrari Trento said it had nearly tripled its US sales since the start of its F1 partnership.This article is part of “Behind the Wheel,” a series about the highly competitive and high-tech world of Formula 1.

It’s an iconic moment of a Formula 1 race: the uproarious podium celebration, where the top three drivers spray each other with bubbly as the prelude to Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen” plays in the background.

Since 2021, F1 drivers technically haven’t been celebrating with Champagne. They’ve been spraying and imbibing sparkling wine produced by the Italian company Ferrari Trento (no relation to the Ferrari car manufacturer). And with a calendar spanning 24 races across five continents, Formula 1 has led to enormous brand exposure for the small winery in northern Italy.

“For us, it has been a dream come true,” said Matteo Lunelli, the president and CEO of Ferrari Trento. “Our brand awareness is growing, especially in the United States, where Formula 1 is rising enormously in relevance and popularity.”

A 70-year tradition

The tradition of awarding winners with Champagne at Formula 1 races dates back to 1950, when the Argentine driver Juan Manuel Fangio received a large bottle of Moët & Chandon after winning the French Grand Prix.

But the act of spraying Champagne can be traced back to 1966, at the famed French endurance race 24 Hours of Le Mans, when the Swiss driver Jo Siffert accidentally popped the cork on his bottle, spraying a few unsuspecting spectators. The next year, the American racer Dan Gurney one-upped Siffert, intentionally shaking up his bottle of Moët & Chandon and drenching everyone around him.

Soon enough, that practice became standard at Formula 1 races, resulting in the spectacle seen today.

Worldwide exposure for F1’s bubbly partners

Over the years, Formula 1 has partnered with a variety of Champagne companies for its podium celebrations, including Moët & Chandon, G.H. Mumm, and Champagne Carbon. In 2021, when the racing series began its partnership with Ferrari Trento, it represented the first time a non-French sparkling wine had been used.

“Traditionally, the sport was always linked to Champagne,” Lunelli said. “Choosing us was a big step and innovation for them.”

Since then, Ferrari Trento has been featured prominently on the podium during each Grand Prix. Viewers can even watch a “bottle cam” showing drivers dousing each other in sparkling wine. Some drivers even have unique ways of drinking it.

The Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo drinking bubbly from a shoe.

This exposure is what makes the sponsorship deal so coveted.

“It’s a global sport, so it’s more eyes, it’s emotions, and it’s a story,” said Theresa Sanchez, a codirector of the wine-marketing program at the University of California, Davis. “Everyone wants to leave these events telling a story, and if your wine brand can be part of that story during the celebration, it’s successful.”

For Ferrari Trento, the deal has been buoyed by the recent growth of Formula 1, thanks in part to the success of the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive.”

“We nearly tripled our sales in the US since the start of the partnership,” Lunelli said. “We had to move allocation of wine from the local Italian market to export sales, which is a strategic decision for us that we want to continue. Our goal is really to increase our export sales and make Ferrari Trento more and more international.”

Trial rules

Outside of the podium celebration, Ferrari Trento is served throughout each Formula 1 race weekend. Christian Miller, another codirector of the UC Davis wine-marketing program, argued that this is the most important part of the sponsorship.

Miller, who’s also the research director of Wine Market Council, alluded to consumer research suggesting that “trial rules,” meaning that providing opportunities for people to taste a wine benefits wine companies more so than other tactics.

As Formula 1 continues to rise in popularity — with new US races in Miami and Las Vegas only adding to the series’ pomp and circumstance — Ferrari Trento gets more opportunities to offer its wine to customers.

“Those two Grands Prix created a whole weekend of events, celebrations, and parties,” Lunelli said.

Lunelli said that during the week of the 2024 Miami Grand Prix, close to 20,000 bottles of Ferrari Trento were served. During the Las Vegas race last fall, an estimated 40,000 bottles were uncorked.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to present ourselves to new customers,” Lunelli said.

A bold decision

When Ferrari Trento started its partnership with Formula 1 in 2021, hosting these events wasn’t necessarily a sure thing.

“We finalized our agreement at the beginning of 2021 when we were still in lockdown,” Lunelli said. At the time, Formula 1 races were happening at largely empty racetracks without fans.

“The starting point of our partnership demonstrated from us a strong willingness to do it — and a little bit of courage,” Lunelli said. “It turned out to be a very positive decision.”

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton celebrate on the podium with Ferrari Trento sparkling wine in 2021.

The relationship between sports and wine seems poised for continued growth. In addition to Formula 1’s sponsorship, the NFL, the NBA, and MLB have launched wine partnerships in recent years.

Sanchez described these partnerships as much needed in the wine industry as vineyards look for new customers in different demographics.

“We need to go to the consumer,” she said. “It’s getting more expensive to bring consumers to the tasting room, so you have to meet people where they’re at, where they’re having fun. It’s simply smart for wine brands.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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