F1 gives green light to betting sponsors in three-way deal with ISG and Sportradar
By Simon Ward
Formula 1 today opened up a potentially lucrative new market for itself in unveiling a sponsorship and data rights partnership with Interregional Sports Group, the UK-based sports media agency, that will entail the sale of betting packages around the racing.
Under the “ground-breaking” agreement, expanding ISG, which is already highly active in European soccer, will develop an F1 betting offering with in-play markets, and have the right to sub-license betting partnership rights to selected companies around the world.
The value of the partnership has not been disclosed, but ISG is paying an upfront fee to Formula 1 parent company Liberty Media, in a deal that will be worth $100 million over five years to the sport, according to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper.
In a related tie-up, Sportradar, the sports data and digital content company, has been brought in to provide data and integrity solutions for the betting proposition in what represents a significant departure for the series.
Formula 1 has previously eschewed official partnerships with the betting sector, with long-time promoter Bernie Ecclestone thought to have regarded it as an unnatural fit, and with varying regulations in the countries in which it operates presenting complications.
However, Liberty, which assumed control of the sport in a $4.4-billion deal at the start of 2017, has sought to explore new commercial openings and to engage more closely with fans, and evidently sees betting as a money-spinning option.
ISG, which works with Serie A and LaLiga among top soccer leagues, will be responsible for marketing regionalised branded on-screen graphics, physical and virtual trackside signage and opportunities on digital and social media platforms to betting companies.
It is understood that, while there will be links to their platforms, betting sponsors will not be permitted to promote odds within the media coverage of races, and the level of advertising at races will vary according to the locations.
Betting is widely banned in the Middle East, while countries such as Italy and Australia have recently tightened legislation relating to gambling sponsorship of sporting events.
However, Formula 1 could benefit from an imminent relaxation in the strict laws on sports betting in USA brought about by this year’s Supreme Court ruling that the Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which largely prohibited the activity outside Nevada, was not consistent with the US constitution.
Welcoming the new partnerships, Sean Bratches, managing director, commercial operations at Formula 1, said: “F1 is delighted to partner with ISG, which has demonstrated its impressive global capabilities through working with the likes of Serie A and La Liga. We are also hugely excited to work with ISG and Sportradar on making the most of the data which is generated at every Grand Prix.
“Sportradar are world leaders in data distribution and share our passion to make F1 a significant player in this field. Data and sponsorship partnerships like this are common practice across almost all premium sports and this is the latest step in our mission to make Formula 1 the world’s leading sports entertainment experience.
“This deal allows us to develop new and exciting ways for Formula 1 fans around the globe to engage with the world’s greatest racing spectacle, while ensuring integrity with best practice oversight from Sportradar.”
Bratches is set to provide more details of the plans when he speaks at the Betting on Sports conference in London on Wednesday.
ISG’s deal has raised its profile in international sport on the back of its involvement in premium soccer.
The company recently retained its contract to sell international presenting sponsorship rights to Serie A for a further three seasons, and is focusing on selling packages in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia.
In June, ISG acquired Sportcel, the London-based sports sponsorship and events agency, in the latest stage of its development.
Tony Ragan, the joint executive chairman of ISG Group, said today: “We are industry leaders in helping rights holders segment global audiences through the use of regionalised virtual advertising. F1’s worldwide audience is a perfect fit for that approach. Across the ISG Group we enhance rights holder and brand relationships using our expertise in technology, unique content development and comprehensive activation programmes.
“We will be working with Sportradar to create products that will be both exciting and engaging for the global betting public helping them feel even more involved in what is one of the most thrilling sports in the world.”
Sportradar can already boast data rights and integrity services partnerships with various sports federations, with its Fraud Detection System used by the likes of Fifa, Uefa, Asian Football Confederation, Conmebol, NBA, NHL, International Tennis Federation, World Rugby and the International Cricket Council to identify suspicious betting patterns.
David Lampitt, managing director group operations at Sportradar, said: “Sportradar is the global leader in the area of sports data distribution and monetisation; as well as integrity services in the fight against betting-related fraud and sports corruption. Through this collaboration with Formula 1, we’re delighted that fans will receive an exciting and safe betting experience and we look forward to further developing the F1 fan experience.”