The premier class of motorcycle racing has always been great for the true head-to-head title fights, the dramatic off and on-track moments and the scintillating pace at which the front runners set. However, there is often a battle that gets very little coverage. Welcome to the battle of the energy drinks.
It hasn’t always been energy drinks. Once upon a time, Marlboro, Lucky Strike and Rothmans all went head to head in a battle for cigarette bragging rights. However, as cigarette advertising becomes more regulated and energy drinks become more popular, there has been a shift in just how much energy drink sponsorship can mean.
Red Bull are the long-serving sponsors as far as energy drinks are concerned. They have sponsored the Yamaha WCM team back in the late 90s and early 2000s, they were also sponsors of Ben Atkins’ Reve Red Bull Ducati team in BSB in 1999, which fielded John Reynolds and Sean Emmett, with James Haydon joining Reynolds a year later. They sponsored the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca in its comeback years as well as continuing to sponsor many riders, like Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales. However, the tide is turning and now, there’s some good, healthy competition.
Monster burst onto the scene back in 2009 with James Toseland, who was in his 2nd season in MotoGP on the Tech 3 Yamaha, also sponsored by Monster. Incrementally, they’ve got onto the shirt tails of Red Bull and now Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow and the Tech 3 boys all sponsored by the energy drink giant. In fact, they have so much input that now they sponsor Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix most notably. Above and beyond this, MotoGP is having an influence on their products too! The Monster Energy VR46 ‘The Doctor’ drink smashed its ways onto the shelves of British supermarkets last year and have gone down a treat with not just bike fans, but the public, promoting the sport we love in markets that aren’t afraid of mass consumerism.
However, there is one more big name energy drink. Rockstar. And they back Jorge Lorenzo. Despite him winning the championship in 2015, there was no limited-edition drink or much say from anyone in Rockstar at all come to think of it. They’re a relatively new sponsor to the sport, although they had a lot of involvement in Yamaha when Fiat left at the end of 2011, when the team didn’t have a title sponsor.
So now you know the background of each drink, what significance does it carry? Well, you could say it promotes healthy competition. For many years it was tobacco brands that would carry ‘unhealthy’ healthy competition, but due to tobacco promotion regulations, that has faded away and been replaced by the energy drinks market which is worth a staggering £40bn.
It is also promoting the sport. As I have already said, Valentino Ross tribute drinks are readily available but it goes another step further than that. Not only does it sell products and expose MotoGP to a worldwide players, but it allows for other sponsors to chip in to. To come away from energy drinks for a split second, I’ll give you an example. Repsol are the main oil sponsors for Honda, however, Castrol have made some appearances on the side of Cal Crutchlow’s Honda and Eneos have been on the Yamaha. In effect, back to energy drinks, once one of them does it, all of their rivals have to do it, and this neo-liberal idea of competition and individual gain is having massive positive effects on our sport across all series, and not just MotoGP.
Energy drink competition give us another on track battle. Now, it isn’t just about winning as a rider, team, constructor or because of your nationality, but it’s about taking your own energy drink sponsors to the top of the podium. The battle last year with Rossi and Lorenzo was Monster VS Rockstar. This year it has been Monster VS Rockstar with Rossi and Marquez. It adds yet another dynamic to our sport, where it gives us something else to read into or analyse. It may have absolutely no interest for some, but it might form a rivalry for others.
One may argue however that energy drinks should have no place in sport of any form, not just motorcycle racing. After all, they are unhealthy, and that isn’t what’s needed to carry out sporting tasks such as racing, running, etc. Similar things happened with the London Olympics, where Coca Cola and McDonalds stepped up as the two big sponsors. Maybe we need to have Tropicana VS Capella instead, maybe stick an innocent smoothie in there somewhere too.
I personally, totally disagree with people who believe energy drinks shouldn’t have a place in sport. They are ENERGY DRINKS. Energy is required if you are going to compete in any sports, and the extra 150 calories that you consume will be burnt off by the time you’ve finished. Unless of course you play the very active sport of golf or bowls, then it may take longer.
Conclusively, the roll of energy drinks in MotoGP is bigger than tobacco was in the 80s and early 90s. The competition dynamic between the different brands is sizzling and the outcome for our sport isn’t bad either. It adds that extra dimension of rivalry and gives MotoGP that extra edge over most other sports, as it has sponsors from the same field, but from different brands, coming together at the top of the championship tree.
And after all, who’s to say that before too long, we will have a watermelon Marquez drink from Red Bull, and a Lime and Orange Lorenzo alongside The Doctors Lemon fizz on the shelves of Asda. Now that would make an incredible front row.
“And down to checkout 1”…
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko