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Is the Visa Cash App RB name really so bad?

AlphaTauri's controversial rebrand to Visa Cash App RB has more than ruffled a few feathers within the F1 community, but what separates it from other team names?

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F1 has a long history of sponsor-laden names, so why has Visa Cash App RB caused more outrage than those that came before it?

Visa Cash App RB F1 Red Bull AlphaTauri
Before AlphaTauri became Visa Cash App RB, they were called Toro Rosso and had been since Red Bull purchased the team from Minardi. (Image Credit: @AlphaTauriF1 on X)

The changing identities of two of F1’s backmarkers has characterised the winter break. First, the not-so-pithily named Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake – otherwise known as Alfa Romeo Sauber – became just Stake F1 Team.

Then, Scuderia AlphaTauri – Red Bull’s second team, named after a star and the conglomerate’s clothing brand – really put the cat amongst the pigeons by rebranding as Visa Cash App RB.

If Stake was bad, ‘V-CARB’, as it’s allegedly being referred to internally, was a whole other thing. When the name was leaked via the team’s Instagram handle, and when it was finally announced, it whipped social media into a frenzy.

I must confess, and I’m not just trying to be contrarian or edgy, but Visa Cash App RB is almost so dreadful that it’s not – it’s started to grow on me. Like a rash? Perhaps.

To like the name is an unpopular opinion, and it has rightly upset people, but why is it so much more offensive than some of the sponsor-centric names of yesteryear?

I do think it’s a step too far, and yes, I do think it makes a mockery of F1 – feelings I’m sure those high up in the sport are harbouring themselves.

So what might be more prudent to ask is this: what separates it from the rest, and why?

How did we get here?

F1 teams named after their founders is part of F1 heritage, but it’s a near-dead tradition. Only Haas have joined the grid under their owner’s name in recent years. Long gone are the days of Tyrell, Minardi and Brabham.

I’m old enough to remember Red Bull entering the sport as a team in 2005, but I’m not old enough to recall what public opinion or media coverage of an energy drinks company owning and running a team in its own name was.

But, if I were to hazard a guess, I’d err towards it not being well received at the time.

However, they’ve earned respectability and cemented their place in F1 history. No one blinks twice at their name now.

Viewing Red Bull as an energy drinks manufacturer is perhaps rudimentary. They’ve grown to be arguably the best marketing company in the world.

And that’s what the Visa Cash App RB name is – first-rate disruptive marketing. Even with F1 silly season already getting underway and car launches just around the corner, it’s all anyone in F1 can talk about.

It was disruptive marketing in 2005, and it’s disruptive marketing now. Visa and Cash App must be thrilled. Talk about return on investment. Already.

Over time the Red Bull name found legitimacy in F1. When they rebranded Toro Rosso in 2020, nobody raised an eyebrow at it being called AlphaTauri, after their fashion brand.

So, it’s not sponsorship, per se. That’s not the root of the issue. Besides, United Colors of Benetton had their own team from the mid-eighties through to 2001.

And it’s not the banking element of it, because Mastercard Lola is a cult classic, even if they never did start an F1 race.

What’s in a name?

Agree with him or not, what Will Buxton’s X post (above) is getting at, is that we’ve long had clunky, sponsor-laden names in F1. But what he is omitting, is the simple fact that all listed examples had an easily distinguishable team name to refer to them as.

The principal focus of the intrigue surrounding the Visa Cash App RB name is the final two letters. Do they stand for Racing Bulls? No, according to the team.

The consensus is that it’s a short and simple way of more closely aligning the team with the Red Bull brand.

And that’s perhaps where they’ve upset people – it always used to be clear what the actual team’s name was. Now, it’s not.

Questions remain

When it comes to naming rights, there’s an unknown quality that differentiates between acceptable sponsorship and unacceptable sponsorship. It isn’t a tangible thing, but why was the home of the Los Angeles Lakers – and Los Angeles Clippers – so much more palatable as the Staples Center than it is as the Arena?

There’s more to delve into there but combine it with the ambiguity over the team’s ‘true’ identity, and the messy double use of banking sponsors and you can start to piece together the cause of the uproar; it’s not one single factor, but rather a multitude of them.

Taken in isolation, each offence isn’t quite as egregious. However, taken as the sum, it suddenly becomes more than people are willing to accept.

That said, the point I can’t seem to get past is this: do we just need to give it more time as a name and allow it to settle into our collective sporting lexicon?

Because the more I say it, and the more I hear it, the more I get used to it.

And that leaves me to wonder: does Visa Cash App RB roll off the tongue, or is it already merely muscle memory?

Featured Image Credit: Scuderia AlphaTauri Media Pool

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