Add to this the ongoing pressure on budgets, an increasing demand for ROI and a preoccupation with socially responsible marketing, and F1 becomes a harder sell than ever.
With this in mind, brands now have to make their F1 deals work harder to appease their finance directors. As we reveal in our cover story, sponsors including LG, Santander and Vodafone are banding together in F100, an alliance to make the most of the £458m they invest in the sport.
Given Bernie Ecclestone's iron grip on F1's global business, this is inspired. Apart from giving the sponsors a direct channel to put concerns and express their wishes to the motorsport tycoon, the alliance will enable brands to share their learnings and develop best practice guidelines.
Crucially, it could also bring new sponsorship models to the sport. Entrepreneur Gerard Lopez is already trying to do this via his 75% stake in the Renault F1 team. Rather than merely enticing sponsors to put branding on the car, he wants to engage companies in joint ventures that extend beyond traditional commercial boundaries. He has already forged a partnership with Hewlett Packard that, in exchange for on-car branding, gives Renault access to HP technology to help boost its performance. A similar deal with Lada will help Renault expand further into the budget marque's native Russia.
If, through this group, brands can engineer similarly symbiotic relationships, their sponsorships look set to take on a new lease of life. Marketing directors can breathe a sigh of relief.