Ferrari refutes flouting tobacco ban

Ferrari has responded to suggestions that its race car livery could be in breach of European tobacco advertising laws.

Tobacco advertising was always Formula 1's biggest source of sponsorship revenue before a Europe-wide ban on tobacco sponsorship of sport was imposed in 2006. That, however, did not stop Philip Morris (Marlboro) renewing its long-term backing of the Scuderia with an extension to 2011 believed to be worth around $1bn over a six-year period.

Before the ban on subliminal advertising, the West tobacco brand raced with 'East' on the McLarens and the Benson & Hedges brand changed its identification on the Jordan cars to 'Buzzing Hornets.' The claim has been made this week that Ferrari's current livery amounts to subliminal advertising because the identifications on the Ferrari engine cover and on the sleeves of the drivers' overalls resemble a bar code and, it is claimed, are meant to resemble the bottom of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

A spokesman for the European public health commissioner, John Dalli, has told The Times newspaper that Marlboro's approach is potentially subliminal advertising and urged governments to look into whether the company, the world's second largest tobacco manufacturer, is in breach of the law.

Ferrari, in response, issued the following statement: "In recent weeks, articles have been published relating to the partnership contract between Scuderia Ferrari and Philip Morris International, questioning its legality. These reports are based on two suppositions: that part of the graphics featured on the Formula 1 cars are reminiscent of the Marlboro logo and even that the red colour which is a traditional feature of our cars is a form of tobacco publicity.

"Neither of these arguments have any scientific basis, as they rely on some alleged studies which have never been published in academic journals. But more importantly, they do not correspond to the truth.

"The so-called barcode is an integral part of the livery of the car and of all images coordinated by the Scuderia, as can be seen from the fact it is modified every year and, occasionally even during the season. Furthermore, if it was a case of advertising branding, Philip Morris would have to own a legal copyright on it.

"The partnership between Ferrari and Philip Morris is now only exploited in certain initiatives, such as factory visits, meetings with the drivers, merchandising products, all carried out fully within the laws of the various countries where these activities take place. There has been no logo or branding on the race cars since 2007, even in countries where local laws would still have permitted it.

"The premise that simply looking at a red Ferrari can be a more effective means of publicity than a cigarette advertisement seems incredible: how should one assess the choice made by other Formula 1 teams to race a car with a predominantly red livery or to link the image of a driver to a sports car of the same colour? Maybe these companies also want to advertise smoking!

"It should be pointed out that red has been the recognised colour for Italian racing cars since the very beginning of motor sport, at the start of the twentieth century: if there is an immediate association to be made, it is with our company rather than with our partner."

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Stories: APRIL 30, 2010
FERRARI REFUTES FLOUTING TOBACCO BAN