JANUARY 26, 2007

Ferrari branding

Marlboro is not to seen in Formula 1 this year - at least not in name. The brand remains the primary sponsor of the Ferrari F1 team, on the basis that it has established such a strong visual brand in the course of the last 10 years that people will still relate the car to Marlboro, whether the name is there or not. This is entirely logical as perceptions tend to lag behind reality. Surveys continue to show that branding such as JPS is still linked to F1 in the minds of the public, despite the fact that JPS has been out of the sport for 20 years.

According to some reports Philip Morris, the company that owns Marlboro, will continue with this policy in the foreseeable future unless there are attempts to legislate against such subliminal branding. If that happens it will take time for laws to go through but Philip Morris has a choice of what to do as it can sell the space on the Ferraris to other sponsors, in much the same way it currently does with Shell and Alice, or it can switch to one of the food brands that are owned by its parent company Altria. While food is not really something that goes well with the F1 image (it is hard to imagine a Dairylea Ferrari although perhaps the colour scheme would work well with Ritz biscuits), Altria is the biggest shareholder in the SAB Miller brewing company and is a big player in the world of coffee with brands such as Carte Noire, Kaffee HAG, Kenco and Maxwell House. It also owns the Kool-Aid drink brand and chocolate brands such as Toblerone.