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Stake F1 Team

Champagne, canapés...and Marmite as Stake nets F1 foothold

It was a throwback to the halcyon days of team launches - a dramatic setting, champagne, canapés, and the reveal of a car that had people talking.

Whatever your thoughts on Stake Sauber's C44, and its 'fluo racing green' colour scheme, as it was described, there can be no doubt the team's new title sponsor achieved what it had set to do.

Since its foundation in 2017, a company that claims to be the world's biggest online cryptocurrency casino and that has its origins in Australia and the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, has not always generated the right kind of headlines.

Launched in Melbourne by Ed Craven and business partner Bijan Tehrani, it initially managed to circumvent Australia's online casino laws. It legally operates in the country but does not serve the people in Australia, nor advertise.

It means that for the Australian Grand Prix, among others, the Stake branding will be removed and another of the team's partners, Kick, will take over.

Last year, Craven and Tehrani, whose personal wealth is each estimated to be over US$1 billion, were hit with a $580m lawsuit against their business launched in the Southern District of New York by former partner Christopher Freeman, who claimed he had been shut out by the duo.

US District Judge Ronnie Abrams dismissed the case for jurisdictional reasons. Abrams likened it to The Social Network in which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was sued by those who claimed he had stolen their idea for the globally renowned site. Freeman was the same concerning Craven and Zehrani.

Three months later, Stake.com was the victim of an elaborate hack that saw the company lose US$41m in virtual currency. An FBI investigation discovered the theft was conducted by a North Korean organisation, the Lazarus Group.

It is fair to suggest it has not been an easy ride for Craven and Tehrani but when you are an online gambling company dabbling in the arts of cryptocurrency and raking in a fortune, it is hardly a surprise either.

With their combined wealth, though, Craven and Tehrani have engaged in aggressive sponsorship programmes to further promote the brand.

In July 2021, Stake.com sponsored the then-Premier League outfit Watford to the tune of a club-record £5m per year in a multi-year deal. A year later, the ante was raised when they partnered with Everton, setting another club record with an agreement reported to be over £10m per year.

Additionally, it has partnered with Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter Drake who serves as a brand ambassador, as well as former Argentina and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero.

Stake.com entered F1 at the start of 2023 when it was announced as a title sponsor. With the departure of Alfa Romeo at the end of last season, the company has now become the exclusive title partner of the team for the next two years ahead of Audi's takeover of Sauber in 2026.

Stake winds the clock back to move forward

What was clear at the launch of the car at London's 600-year-old Guildhall was that Stake.com was determined to announce itself on the F1 stage, freed from the shackles, if you will, of Sauber's partnership with Alfa Romeo.

Utilising the hashtag 'Unleashed', the black and viridescent green livery was eye-catching, and from the remarks on social media, it was also Marmite with its lovers and haters.

Not that Craven and Tehrani will care one iota. They had set social tongues wagging, even on a day when F1 was sent reeling by the bombshell news surrounding Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

With Williams revealing its FW46 hours earlier, Stake won the battle of the launches, hands down, offering something fresh, innovative, and arguably disruptive as far as F1 is concerned as nothing like it had been seen previously.

Stake Sauber representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi understatedly described the colour scheme as "distinguished", adding, "I hope everyone will like what we have done". The mixed opinions suggested not.

As far as Alunni Bravi is concerned, however, it is about creating a new brand identity, being as far removed as possible from the team's staid Swiss past.

"It's a concept that will pervade everything we are going to do, that we have applied to all of our marketing strategy, communications strategy, and all of our assets," added Alunni Bravi, who additionally declared his team to be "starting a new chapter in Formula 1".

'We wanted to have a colour scheme that is unique in Formula 1, not used by any other team because we want to have a distinguished approach in every area," he said.

"Secondly, we wanted to show there is a new team identity, not something that could be similar to the old Sauber era or using colours that were similar to the previous six years. We went for a 360-degree approach in every area.

"It's a new team identity but also on our social media platform we have a new way to communicate in different languages, so there has been a holistic approach for us, with the colour one element, but not all."

As to the launch reversion, when money was no object for many F1 teams when it came to making a pre-season splash, Alunni Bravi said: "We decided to have a car launch that is more an event, a show, to better communicate our vision, and what we want to do."

Whilst there was the obvious sense that Stake was turning the clock back with its extravagance, the bigger picture is that the world has changed considerably since those grandiose days.

For a team like Stake to grow off track, it has to engage with a new, younger audience, and to that extent offer something very different and edgy as a lure away from its more mainstream rivals.

Alunni Bravi talked of "activations" and "influencers", describing it as "a new language" to "expand our fan base, our audience".

Whatever your thoughts on that livery, there will be no escaping it this season, and just like Marmite, it will remain memorable for either all the right or wrong reasons, depending on your point of view.

F1 2024 launch season RN365 News dossier

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