Ferrari’s tobacco money: A return to advertising on cars?

Ferrari have lost major sponsor recently. The Spanish banking group Santander has failed to renew it’s $40 million deal with the Scuderia and now there’s talk of what would replace their advertising space on the car.

Santander ended its involvement in Formula One after eight years, starting with Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. Instead Santander has signed a three-year contract with the UEFA Champions League. Up until recently, the financial institution took prominent place in Ferrari: advertising on the rear wings, on the side of the chassis, on the front wings and on the coveralls of Vettel and Raikkonen. But this year, neither Ferrari or Santander could agree on a new contract for 2018 onwards with the bank, allegedly demanding a reduction of more than a third from the annual price of $40 million. It is now rumoured that long time sponsor Phillip Morris may step in and use the space vacated by Santander.

Historically Ferrari shunned any kind of Tobacco money with the founder Enzo Ferrari saying “A Ferrari does not smoke” – A pun to engine reliability no doubt.

Yet rather ironically, since those times Ferrari has nurtured a long term partnership with tobacco giant Phillip Morris for 40 years. That partnership continues to this day having renewed another deal in September of this year for a rumoured at a staggering annual sum of $160 million.

Despite all overt Tobacco advertising being banned from Formula One on a voluntary team basis as far back as 2006, the Italian marque still kept the Philip Morris owned Malboro brand in their name. The last race we saw the Malboro logo on a Ferrari F1 car was at the 2007 Chinese GP who’s tobacco advertising laws still allowed it at the time.

Since the British Grand Prix in 2011, Marlboro is no longer title sponsor of the Scuderia Ferrari, the connection to Philip Morris however, has remained. For example in Monte Carlo in 2013 and 2014 it was advertised clearly in conjunction with Ferrari despite no actual logo appearing on the cars or team wear. First with the slogan «Be Marlboro», then we had «Get closer». Later on advertising posters we had “red is style”. In 2015 it was called “red is action”, again with a Ferrari, Vettel and the logo.

Further, Philip Morris and Marlboro have had advertising space allocated to them by Ferrari who in turn place ‘appropriate’ advertising partners, not overtly related to smoking, in order to receive a return on their investment with Ferrari.

IQOS starter kit

One such partner is the Philip Morris brand of IQOS, an e-cig but not as we’ve known it before. In October Philip Morris set up a large pavilion at the main entrance of Suzuka during both the F1 and Moto GP’s, where fans could get a taste of their newest e-cig product. 

Unlike competing brands, IQOS does not vaporise any nicotine-containing liquid, but heats up real tobacco. As a result, the steam supposedly contains less pollutants than regular cigarette smoke. Health authorities have already warned that the addictive potential is comparable to the consumption of cigarettes and the health issues are completely unknown.

IQOS was launched in 2014 – initially in Japan and Italy, in 2016 it was available in twenty countries. According to the tobacco company, three billion dollars were invested in the development of the product, and in 2017 IQOS is to contribute $ 700 million to the profits of Philip Morris.

With advertising for e-cigs less regulated globally than normal cigarettes, it’s not a stretch to see Philip Morris taking full advantage of that using Ferrari as it’s vehicle to reach an audience with many countries having no advertising restrictions at all on e-cigs.


3 responses to “Ferrari’s tobacco money: A return to advertising on cars?

  1. In the US e-cigs were added a couple of years ago to products included in the TV / radio tobacco broadcast ban. They are now included with regular cigarettes. pipe tobacco and smokeless (chewing) tobacco. Canada also bans e-cig TV / radio ads. So does Australia. I would suspect that the EU would be similar. There may be a few markets that still allow it, China / Japan – but most wouldn’t. I also know that in North America broadcasters are very wary of content with tobacco / sponsorship / ads that originate in other countries for fear of problems with broadcast regulators. It will be interesting to see if Philip Morris have found a way around the bans.

    • I always thought Phillip Morris bought the entire sponsorship and sold it to other players. But that might have been part of the cars, so Ferrari did it’s own deal with shell or Santander.

      There was the issue with the barcode which people found to look too much like the Marlboro logo. Then they changed it so it looks like the top end of a package of Marlboro – during that episode marlboro got massive free publicity…

      Then the Marlboro man: arrivabene arrived.

      And now they have this new product with zero scientific proof that it’s bad…

      They will stick around

      • Initially Philip Morris paid the drivers salaries and nothing went to the team while Enzo was alive. He was anti-smoking.After he died it increased but Mclaren was getting more from PM. PM dropped their sponsorship with Mclaren, who went to another tobacco company (West) and essentially just sponsored Ferrari. The Alfa sponsorship was actually from the Marlboro distributor in Italy and not from PM.

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