Ferrari addresses criticism over Marlboro sponsorship
Ferrari has found itself at the center of controversy once again as pundits have accused the Scuderia of subliminal advertising of tobacco products through its longstanding partnership with Philip Morris International, producer of Marlboro cigarettes.
Historically, tobacco advertising has been commonplace in motorsports, F1 in particular. Imperial Tobacco’s Gold Leaf brand started off sponsoring the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix, leading a trend that would see tobacco companies sponsoring teams and races for decades to come. British American Tobacco went so far as to field its own cars – the British American Racing team that later became Honda, then Brawn GP and now races under the Mercedes GP banner. For several years, Marlboro (like Santander today) sponsored both McLaren and Ferrari, before concentrating its efforts on the Scuderia. By the late 1990s, however, European countries in particular began outlawing tobacco advertising in sports, leading to the withdrawal (no pun intended) of most major tobacco companies from Formula One. Williams became the first major team to run without cigarette branding in 2000, and since then all the major tobacco companies have pulled out of the sport, with the notable exception of Philip Morris.
Like other teams had initially, Ferrari continues to run livery on its F1 cars that – in compliance with European regulations – doesn’t explicitly include the name of its sponsor. The brand continues, however, to be part of the team’s name (known officially as Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in a deal reportedly worth $1 billion), and over the years the Marlboro logo has grown increasingly abstract on the livery to the point that today it’s little more than a red, white and black bar-code. Although the team had, until a couple of years ago, run with the Marlboro name on the cars in overseas races where regulations permitted tobacco advertising, since 2008 Ferrari has run only with the bar-code logo.
British pundits, however, say the abstraction is not enough, pointing to the bar-code and even the team’s use of the color red as subliminal advertising of the team’s title sponsor. Ferrari has released a statement refuting the charges, saying the bar-code logo has not been scientifically proven to be subliminal advertising, and that the red livery has been integral to the team since its inception and the dawn of motorsports. Follow the jump for Ferrari’s argument and judge for yourself.