Ferrari denies Marlboro branding

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari have reacted to media reports claiming their barcode livery is designed to remind people of Marlboro cigarette packaging:

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 2008, even in countries where local laws would still have permitted it.
Ferrari statement

Ferrari’s protestations that what they are doing is legally correct will do little to dissuade anyone that the barcode design exists for any reason other than to call to attention their lucrative association with long-standing F1 sponsor Marlboro.

It’s not as if the barcode appears on any of the cars they sell or on Ferraris racing in championships outside F1. The team’s official name on the FIA entry list is Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.

Similar designs have been used in F1 for the best part of three decades, since restrictions on tobacco advertising began to affect sports. “Non-tobacco liveries” featuring a variety of unsubtle similarities to the original logos were once a common sight.

But you have to ask why the legislators have chosen to trouble themselves with it now, years after F1 went tobacco-free (Ferrari notwithstanding, of course). It looks a bit like a storm in a teacup to me – at this stage I’d be very surprised if this ends with Ferrari being forced to kick their cigarette habit.

83 comments on “Ferrari denies Marlboro branding”

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  1. What is don’t understand is why do Ferrari still want to keep the Malboro barcode after all these years.

    It must be due to the fact they are being paid handsomely by Malboro to do so – even if that means its indirect advertising!


      That article kind of explains why Ferrari keeps the logo and Marlboro pays Ferrari for it.

    2. smart just smart by marlboro they know that everytime we see that car we remenber of the times when tobacco publicity was permited and we associate immideatly with marlboro its not obvious but enough to be worthy economicly

  2. Prisoner Monkeys
    30th April 2010, 9:50

    It’s not subliminal advertising: it’s brand association. Malboro have built themselves a de facto logo with the barcode. It’s like Nike’s ‘swoosh’ or McDonalds’ golden arches – you see them and you know what they mean without needing a brand name to go with them.

    1. The difference with the swoosh and the arches is that they were registered as trademarks while the barcode is not “owned” by Phillip Morris.

      But surely everybody following F1 knows, that this barcode stands for the Marlboro brand. It was used to replace the actual logo for years, so no difficulty getting that. That way it went to be the “de facto” logo as you said.

      Who knows why these politicians want to get into this now, after years. Is there some sort of other regulations in the make, something like the Australian “no branding” law?

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        30th April 2010, 11:12

        I couldn’t say, since I’m Australian, and none too familiar with politics as it is (I hate politics).

        However, it’s not the politicians that are going on ths crusade – it’s a group of doctors who started it.

        1. All these drink driving campaigns… alcohol and driving don’t mix, well why are they allowed to advertise it on cars then?

      2. Well all we need to do know for sure is simply see how much ferrari actually get paid by Malaboro. Because lets face it I sincerely doubt it is anything like the market rate for the coverage they are supposedly only getting.

    2. I agree with you that it is not subliminal advertising. I’m surprised a physician used that term inaccurately, but I guess it gets more media attention.

      Nike and McDonald’s ‘swoosh’ and arches are truly brand-associated, but they do not have the same restrictions on advertising as does the tobacco industry.

      In the case of Marlboro the association between barcode logo and brand only works for those who know the particular history and make the connection. If you just look at a pack of Marlboros you would not associate the brand with the barcode as everything on sale has one; if you started following motorsports recently you wouldn’t know until someone told you the story. I’ve heard kids call the Ferrari stripes a piano sign and say it looks like the curb strips on the track. Not much cause for hysteria about incitement to smoke.

      The Financial Times recently did a special report on the top global brands. In the graphic showing the top ten, the Marlboro brand was represented by their name in white and red while others like Apple, McDonald’s, Vodafone and China Mobile were shown as their very recognizable logos. Presumably if the barcode were an identifier for Marlboro it would have been used.

      Philip Morris must be having a smile with this kerfuffle as now a larger public will maybe associate the barcode with Marlboro. And there are barcodes everywhere!

      1. Agreed, I think like so many things if you try and ban or stop something everyone take an interest. I would love it if it transpires that the doctor was on the marlboro payroll.

      2. Very true. I only recently started following F1 seriously, and had no idea what they were on about. I have no more association between a bar code and Marlboro than I do between a golf ball and an alligator.

  3. This really is a lot of fuss about nothing. Of course the barcode branding is there to represent Marlboro. The barcodes are positioned on the car in the places where “Marlboro” used to be positioned, and to say otherwise would be a bare faced lie. I personally couldn’t care less. Seeing the bar code on the Ferrari engine cover is no more likely to make me or any other intelligent human being fork out some cash for a box of ciggies than reading Marlboro would.

    By the way… why is it wrong to put cigarette sponsors on racing cars, but it’s ok to put alcohol sponsors on them? I don’t remember all those road safety campaigns saying “Don’t smoke and drive”…

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      30th April 2010, 10:20

      Because alcohol isn’t a social taboo the way smoking is.

      1. In the road saftey context it should be. It just seems wrong given the FIA’s campaign to “Make roads safe” that a team like Force India can have 4 alcohol brands on its car.

        1. Exactly GeeMac, this whole thing is ridiculous (and I am NOT a smoker)… McDonalds isn’t very good for you either and it’s plastered all over US race cars.

    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next target is alcohol advertising.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        30th April 2010, 10:29

        I doubt it. Alochol is freely-advertised in public. How many billboards for cigarettes have you seen of late? The only ones I can recall are the graphic anti-smoking ones showing images of gangrene and mouth cancer.

        1. I don’t know how it is in other countries but here in the UK there have been calls from some quarters for a ban on alcohol advertising. A quick search brought up these two articles

          The British Medical Association called for a ban on all alcohol advertising in September 2009

          A Youth Commission in Scotland recommended a ban on advertising in public last month

          Cigarettes used to be freely advertised and at one time Doctors were even supposed to recommend them to patients.

          I don’t know if I didn’t notice them before but in recent years alcohol adverts here have started to carry little messages such as please drink responsibly.

          1. There are heavy restrictions in Finland too. Finlandia was forbidden from advertising its chocolate some years ago because the brand was so strongly associated with vodka.

        2. Many countries already ban alcohol advertising. In Europe you are not allowed to show sponsorship in France, Ukraine and Norway.
          It is only a matter of time before there is a total ban as with tobacco.

          1. Jarred Walmsley
            30th April 2010, 12:42

            Just out of curiosity does this ban extend to supermarket junkmail or is it only stuff like billboards, TV ads and the like that’s banned?

      2. That’s an interesting thought. You’d think alcohol advertising would logically be the next thing to be banned, after all alcohol is a major cause of car accidents (and other troubles). However, drinking alcohol is considered an acceptable vice in our society, therefore, unfortunately, it will not be banned anytime soon.

        1. and since is smoking not acceptable in socializing (not talking political but rather socializing). I seen many times none smoking people goes outside the pub/restaurant to hang out with their smoking friends now days when seems almost all countries have no smoking laws in bars etc.

          1. Jay Menon
            3rd May 2010, 5:34

            So after alcohol goes..whats gonna be next?

            Society has become rather more stupid over the years. They had to blame it on something so the blamed smokes and soon the booze. More people die eating too much cheese and fast food annually when compared to smokes. Or what about people who die each year due to the stress of working with stupid colleagues?

            Why not ban advertisements of Coke, Starbucks, McDonalds and all types of Candy that contain sugar while their at it? Coke is addicitve and causes cancer, too much coffee messes up your insides, according to Morgan Spurlock too much McD’s can kill you and too much Candy will leave you with diabetes.

            Looks like by the end of the century…advertisements will be banned, period, because too much of everything and anything..will eventually kill..think about it.

  4. Paul McCaffrey
    30th April 2010, 10:09

    Buzzin Hornets was my favorite word association tobacco advertisement. There was even a memorable cartoon hornet on the nose of the Jordan.

    Too bad Ferrari don’t have the Marlboro Man riding the Prancing Horse.

    1. Ha Ha, that would be a nice one!
      It would be to obvious though, there are already court rulings forbidding things like that (for example in movies etc)

    2. they also used bitten heroes in their later years :)
      i also remember “R?” on the williams in their heyday

  5. smoking isnt a social taboo any more than drinking alcohol can be if its in the wrong place at the wrong.

    Id always thought the barcode thing looked a mess and wasnt sure if it was Marlboro or not, now i know for sure, plus the authorities have helped give free publicity for both brands. congratultions!

  6. I never knew it was Marlboro until those health groups pointed it out XD

    1. ha! lol. stupid doctors, too clever for their own good i say.
      why cant they find something else to do.

    2. Exactly, I bet Marlboro are laughing all the way to the bank with all this extra free publicity.

  7. John Spencer
    30th April 2010, 10:59

    Prisoner Monkeys is right – it’s supraliminal, not subliminal advertising because you can see it.

    Marlboro have used the barcode logo for a long time (see it on a McLaren MP4-4:

    The issue of how effective this is as advertising is separate to the legality question. F1 Racing reported that Philip Morris are paying about $1 billion over 10 years to Ferrari, which doesn’t seem like very good value to me but then I don’t represent a multinational conglomerate.

    Ferrari’s response is disingenuous – if Philip Morris weren’t paying, there wouldn’t be a barcode graphic on the car, whoever owned the copyright or trademark.It’s possible that Philip Morris deliberately chose not to protect the barcode device in this way precisely for this reason – to give them plausible deniability and circumvent tobacco advertising regulations.

    But it does seem to be, as the eternally wise KC suggests, a storm in a tea cup.

      1. They are black lines, I think what they mean is that it now goes long red line, white line and small little black bit at the end which kind of looks like a cigarette.

        Still I think its rubbish.

        1. Push the Button
          30th April 2010, 16:48

          No, I think it’s more representative of the cigarette packet…

          Red at top, white in the middle, black writing at bottom.

    1. The Bar code is a definite Marlboro Logo. It first appeared to cover up the Full Marlboro Logo at races where tobacco advertising was not allowed, long before the EU ban. Initialy they were simple peal off stickers over the normal Marlboro. In fact if I remember correctly where the ban was only for television they were only in place for the televised sections and removed for free practice etc.

  8. great word “supraliminal” i used to covet the Toyota 3.0 litre version they did in the early 90’s

    1. I was sat in the passenger seat when my uncle rolled his at very high speed on a country lane back in the 90s.

      It had been a very enjoyable experience up until the point we left the ground and started to roll :-)

      Great car, shame my uncle wasn’t such a great driver…

  9. i didnt know about the barcode…or care that much either. funnily enough im more interested in the tech side and the racing over what sponsors are doing with their logo’s !

  10. ducati team marlobor use a similar barcode in motogp…

  11. Personally I think it pushes the boundaries. I started watching F1 in late 2007 and even I recognized it as the Marlboro logo, and no, I don’t smoke.

    As to the discussion about alcohol, I believe it will be banned very soon. British law now has Alcohol banned for football teams, hence why Liverpool are losing Carlsberg as their sponser, and it won’t be long until the EU also impose this, the resulting in a ban in F1.

    1. Thats incorrect. It was a better deal with Standard Chartered. The league cup is still called the Carling Cup and Everton is sponsored by Chang Beer.

  12. There’s nothing subliminal at all. It was only last year I found out the barcode was actually the Malboro Barcode. I had no idea… So what’s to say people who aren’t hardcore fans will realise either? They won’t!

  13. tomforpresident
    30th April 2010, 11:37

    i think the only problem they have here is as geppo pointed out, ducati marlboro also use a barcode and when you look at them they are identical which shows a connection between the teams.

    but like everyone says, it’s bit of a fuss over nothing really. it doesn’t say marlboro and it’s not a regstered trademark.

    1. ducati marlboro also use a barcode and when you look at them they are identical which shows a connection between the teams.

      Didn’t realise that. Weakens Ferrari’s stance even more, doesn’t it?

      1. tomforpresident
        30th April 2010, 12:01

        certainly won’t help. also as you pointed out the team name is scuderia ferrari marlboro, if you look at the car livery the logo is the ferrari prancing horse emblem and the barcode, possibly creating a connection between the two images.

        though it has to be said it is possibly just one of those things people wouldnt have thought about without it pointed out.

        1. The deal with Philip Morris ends next year and the name will be changed after that. I can’t remember when it ended but Mercedes West Mclaren only stoped a few years ago.
          I do not agree with this stlye of advertising but I have still yet to meet a 11 year old child who ran out to buy a packet of Malboro/B&H/Camel/West etc because a team won a race. Does anyone else remember in the 70’s when advertising was banned at horse eventing? The names of the horses were changed to Sanyo Washing machine, JVC super VHS,Everest Apollo. Hardly subliminal.

          1. MouseNightshirt
            30th April 2010, 13:20

            No-one in the history of mankind (or at least I reckon) has gone out and bought a packet of cigarettes because a F1 team won a race – it’s brand awareness. It makes a person more likely to cave to peer pressure and then increases the likelyhood of them using that brand.

          2. Push the Button
            30th April 2010, 16:55

            Yeah, its more about brand awareness, and “if you already smoke” you may want to try our brand.

            In some respects it has worked for me with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes… I’m currently on O2, but am not happy with the HSPA coverage. The team association has made me reconsider Vodafone which is much better for me for the coverage, and can also be cheaper through a work offer, and I get a buzz as I feel I’m further supporting my favourite team.

            It was the brand assocation that made me look up Vodafone and see if it could be a good deal for me.

            Sad I know… :-)

  14. haaaha yes, good point. ive got some healthy brocolli in my carrier bag, but hold on whats this barcode, oh no its been made by philip morris!

  15. I think it’s a pity cash-strapped F1 teams can’t utilise what used to be, and probably still is, a lucrative source of sponsorship money. Surely people aren’t so stupid as to want to take up smoking just because it’s written on the side of a car?

    1. On the other hand it’s likely some brands didn’t want to be tainted by association by appearing on the same car – or even at the same venue – as tobacco brands.

  16. For me this isn’t abou whether the barcode is an official stand-in for the Marlboro logo or the harzards of smoking vs. the hazards of drinking.

    This is just a clear-cut example of Ferrari playing by a different set of rules. I recall it was 2006 when the tobacco bam became widespread in F1, that Ferrari re-upped their contract with Marlboro, for something like 1-2 billion dollars. It may not be written on the cars but Marlboro is certainly lining Ferrari’s pockets, in a sport where success is so closely linked to budgets and spending.

  17. It’s simply a barcode. Anyone who does not know Malboro’s packaging will take nothing from it.
    It doesn’t promote the brand to anyone not already familiar with it, most importantly adolescents and young adults. I personally only recognise it because I remember the older F1 days with full blown tobacco branding.

    I personally hate smoking, but this is meaningless.
    Smoking in television and film is 100 times more likely to make young people think smoking is good/cool and fine to take up.

  18. I’d always assumed that the barcodes were Marlboro.

    While on the subject of banned sponsorship… is Durex/any safe sex/family planning brand still banned or disapproved of? Would be great fun if a team could carry the brand it would certain give some of the asian/middle eastern countries something to moan about :D

    1. I did like the slogan Durex “the crowd stopper”. It was used in the early 70’s in powerboat racing and the BBC pulled it because of the introduction of the sponsor.

  19. Methinks that with such a long quiet wait between races, F1 journos are just wanting any kind of article!

  20. Push the Button
    30th April 2010, 13:41

    It’s simply all about Brand Assocation, according to Formula Money’s Christian Sylt…

    1. Push the Button
      30th April 2010, 13:43

      Personally, I agree with Keith, a storm in a teacup, and ultimately a bunch of Doctors looking for their ounce of fame.

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