Criticism of Ferrari Marlboro barcode prompts outburst from Montezemolo

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Marlboro barcode on the Ferrari F10
The Marlboro barcode on the Ferrari F10

The Ferrari Marlboro barcode story was dead.

So why on earth has Luca di Montezemolo gone public with his thoughts on the matter?

By confusing Ferrari’s position on the matter he’s only given people fresh cause to wonder whether F1’s most successful team should be allowed to circumvent rules banning tobacco advertising.

The story had run out of steam: A couple of doctors complained to The Times, it got picked up in the news vacuum of a three-week break between races, so Ferrari put out a statement explaining their position. And that was the end of it.

Montezemolo has now confused their position:

Frankly, I find this argument completely pointless and it is verging on the ridiculous to claim that the colour red or a graphic design which shows a barcode could induce people to smoke.
Luca di Montezemolo

This is not what Ferrari said in the first place: to begin with they flatly denied the barcode had anything to do with Marlboro.

Obviously no-one is suggesting a barcode induces people to smoke – the point is it’s reminiscent of Marlboro’s cigarette packaging, and violates the ban on tobacco advertising.

As has been widely pointed out here and elsewhere, similar barcode decals have been used by other Marlboro-backed teams, in F1 and other sports, for the best part of three decades.

The same logo also appears on Ducati’s Marlboro-backed Moto GP bikes. Like Ferrari, Ducati’s official team name includes the name of their primary sponsor: Marlboro.

Montezemolo goes on to give a political diatribe which reads rather like the infamous “horse whisperer” tirade against the new teams last February.

I can only guess at whether he’s referring to US healthcare reform or climate change or something else entirely here:

At a time when, on the other side of the Atlantic they are fighting to provide a more equal health service, in the old continent of Europe, so called experts are racking their brains to come up with theories that have no scientific basis: I think there are more important matters to think about than a bar code.
Luca di Montezemolo

Best of all, he concludes his outburst by saying the best thing to do would be to stop talking about it and deny it the oxygen of publicity:

Therefore, it?s best not to waste any more time replying to this sort of nonsense or to those who are instrumental in wanting to stoke up the story.
Luca di Montezemolo

Oops. Too late.

I appreciate a lot of people don’t agree with the ban on tobacco advertising in Formula 1 – a point which has been raised several times in comments. That’s fair enough, but it’s not the issue at stake here.

The question is, given that we have a tobacco advertising ban, isn’t it rendered ineffective if one team are still allowed to promote a cigarette brand overtly, via their team name, and through brand association with a distinctive logo on their cars?

I wonder if a fear Ferrari might be forced to change their lucrative arrangement with Marlboro is the motivation behind Montezemolo’s latest outburst.

Read more: Ferrari denies Marlboro branding

Gerhard Berger sports a Marlboro barcode on his McLaren at Silverstone in 1991
Gerhard Berger sports a Marlboro barcode on his McLaren at Silverstone in 1991

Images (C) Ferrari spa, Honda

126 comments on “Criticism of Ferrari Marlboro barcode prompts outburst from Montezemolo”

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys
    4th May 2010, 11:37

    So, it’s okay for Ferrari to criticise the new teams for existing a all, but as soon as someone questions Ferrari themselves, they’ve violated the holiest of holies?

    Wow. Double standards, much?

    1. Double standards from Luca Di M? Next you’ll be telling me the Pope is a Catholic! :)

      Admit it though, F1 would be duller without Luca and his rants!

      1. Absolutely! I’m guessing everyone’s now convinced he’s the Horse Whisperer?

        1. Yes, we have a prime suspect here. The tone of the rant was very much alike.

          It does explain part of why Max felt the need to hack into Luca in the interview. Great guy, just not a partner to make good deals with.

          I suppose this rant actually shows him as pretty ignorant as well, as most European countries have more available and cheaper health care than the US in the first place, so no need for them to install it.

          1. Hasn’t he been displaced as chairman of Fiat?
            I wonder if the horsewhisperer had his name changed at the last minute by a quick minded press secutary.

      2. I agree entirely. Luca’s rants are great.

        1. lol serbian vultures

    2. Bartholomew
      4th May 2010, 23:50

      Whenever Lou gets out of bed in the morning with a hangover or a bad night with little sleep he steps up to the microphone and launches a rant
      He sounds like Fred G. Sanford

    3. What interests me, is what they could do with the space that’s being consumed by the barcode. How much money is that worth? It’s everywhere, on the car, on the drivers clothes, helmet designs? Probably a heck of a lot of other kit too..

      What is the grand total value of the space taken up by the barcodes?

      Are we supposed to think Ferrari don’t need another sponsor, and can waste that space on otherwise meaningless graphics.

      If Marlboro aren’t paying to maintain the barcode, prove it by changing the graphic. Be above suspicion.

      1. Luca, if the advertising is not for Marlboro,

        .. then why do you not just tell us what company it is for?

        Would’nt that clear up this situation quickly?

        Would’nt the company who’s logo it is be happy for getting publicity (any publicity is good publicity…)?

        Or are you trying to hide something?

        1. When I was young, I knew very little about the world, what I did know was Schumacher, Schumacher, Ferrari, Schumacher, Ferrari, Barcode, Marlboro. To suggest even for a second that the barcode isn’t Marlboro advertising is ludicrous.

          And surely if we can see it the legal system should see it too, Does the legal system expect the murderer to put the cuffs on and walk into to jail with no one helping him??? =.=

  2. the man is a genius!

    1. absolutely. He keeps the fuel going. The BEST advertisment is the one that is being talked about, cussed and discussed not only over the dinner table but in media, press release information and dragged all around by journalists.

      Marlboro Ferrari how much free press that is NOT write ups on how bad smokes are for you have the first part of that team name not gotten in the last week?

      As a business owner I be grinning all the way to the bank.

      1. I cannot agree more with what macahan said. If it is not visible advertisment, the whole affair is going to promote the real advertiser, which here is M…

        So if the barcode is unknown, put the affair in the limelight and then ad is effective.

  3. What’s your best ‘subliminal’ advert?

    Mine has got to be ‘Bitten and Hisses!’

    1. be on edge
      look alike

    2. Ned Flanders
      4th May 2010, 12:24

      I think ‘BE–ON -EDGE-‘ was pushing the limits of legality:

      Also like the Williams ‘?’:

      And who can forget this… I wonder why people used to say Ferrari get a few favours?!

      1. I quite liked “BE ON EDGE”.. it was clever. If I remember righ Land Rover ran an add campain where mud was used to block out some of the letters on two Land Rover badges to spell out “Over and Over”. Very clever stuff.

        Didn’t Williams also use the question mark to create a bit of hype over who their new sponsor was going to be when Rothmans pulled out? In previous seasons “Rothmans” was changed to either “Racing” or a bar design like the one on Berger’s McLaren.

        1. I remember this one! At the French Grand Prix in 1997, with tobacco advertising banned in France, Williams replaced “Rothmans” with a question mark. Schumacher won the race very comfortably and of course the journalists’ race reports all said “There are question marks over the Williams team…”. Not good for team PR.

          By the British Grand Prix, one week later (tobacco advertising wasn’t banned, but the teams voluntarily chose not to display it – this was the year of Bernie Ecclestone’s $1m donation to the Labour Party, after which they exempted F1 from the proposed ban… and then gave Bernie his money back under media pressure!), the question mark had been replaced by “R.?”, which was less open to journalistic puns.

      2. I only just got the ‘be on edge’ thing!

    3. I loved all the fake tobacco liveries, especially the Williams ‘Racing’ ones and the ‘Mika’, ‘David’, ‘Kimi’ ones…

    4. ‘David’ and ‘Mika’, they essentially still had the ‘west’ logo, just a different name.
      Luca is hilarious. I have no idea what he’s even going on about in the second quoted paragraph. haha

      1. There was actually one event where David Coulthard jumped into T-car set up for Mika Häkkinen during the warm-up – both cars were having text Mika.

        1. I can’t find it but i’m sure McLaren ran an “East” livery at one point. At which point the fia banned humour.

          1. Wasn’t that Zakspeed back in the 80’s? They were also sponsored by West.

          2. McLaren ran is both standard Malboro and “light” livery at one race (GeeMac is spot on about the East/West thing being Zakspeed).

          3. Scribe, you are correct. McLaren did use the “East” in the sidepod logo toward the end(for all teams except Ferrari) of tobacco sponsorship. They also had drivers’ names in the logo area on the sidepods at a few races. I do believe this is what plushpile and Tommy C were referring to. I felt this was the best-looking livery McLaren ever ran, the silver/black/white with the “West” logo on the sidepods. The point became moot, as they had parted company with Reemsta West not too long before securing the Vodafone deal and going to the silver/orange livery.

            As to the barcode on the Ferraris being or not being a reference to Marlboro, any thinking person knows it is, as the barcode and the real Marlboro logo were switched years ago depending on the tobacco advertising laws of the country F1 was at that week. C’mon, Luca, ya can’t kid a kidder.

  4. On a slightly different note, after watching the Betfred world snooker final last night it struck me that the next great taxable addiction has as yet failed to fill the void in F1 left by the cigarette companies. They have taken over in most sports, it seems a little surprising they are not taking advantage of F1.

    1. Betting in F1 is less common place.

      Betting is normally only taken on the whole season which is fairly predictable (Ferrari or McLaren or Red Bull for the title type thing) especially after winter testing.

      Although attracting the F1 crowd for a flutter would probably be a good move. There less likely to gamble all their money away and a few £100 here or there for the most part of the viewership is not a big deal.

      However how many multi-national betting companies are there? Aren’t most still pretty region specific?

  5. you’re talking about a man who beached his Ferrari on a gravel trap on purpose!

    But I still don’t think he’s the infamous Horse Whisperer: probably he could share the same ideas, but that’s not Montezemolo’s stuff.

  6. Robert McKay
    4th May 2010, 12:06

    It’s telling he can’t be bothered to make up an excuse why they would run a barcode otherwise…

  7. Indeed it sounds like Montezemolo is trying to mimick the ridiculous Horse Whisperer. Write a piece of nonsense that skirts around the real issues and feed the dumb masses some soundbites that enrage them so they keep them from realizing what’s really going on.

    It’s perhaps entertaining, but it’s rather embarassing to see someone representing an F1 team writing such nonsense.

    BTW I don’t think that that McLaren sports a barcode. Looks more like a form of racing stripes.

    Renault had them too on their old yellow and black livery in the eighties and now again on the shark fin.

    BBTW in the SF Ferrari team logo the Marlboro logo is even clearer. The white rectangle with thick red barcode on top looks even more like a packet of Marlboro than the version on the car.

  8. BTW, it’s ridicolous that Ferrari still deny any link between Marlboro and the barcode. The Ducati Marlboro team in MotoGP share the same symbol on their livery.

    1. no one’s argueing that it’s a Marlboro barcode. the fuss is over how much it resembles a pack a fags! which it doesn’t tbh.

      1. well, we’re smart people and we’re not deceived by those tricks, but as Keith reported, “they [Ferrari] flatly denied the barcode had anything to do with Marlboro.”
        I’m a Ferrari supporter, but all those spokespeople at Scuderia are a bunch of idiots led by a ultra-narcisistic idiot.

    2. Exactly – The man thinks we are fools

      1. The links broken by the way the Tifosi Mafia have got at it :)

  9. Ned Flanders
    4th May 2010, 12:25

    Quite simply, this is the sort of thing which makes me hate Ferrari

    1. By now, I just feel sorry for them. And to think I used to support these guys! This is why I don’t do teams anymore.

  10. I can only guess at whether he’s referring to US healthcare reform or climate change or something else entirely here:

    I think what Luca is trying to say is that, in the US, those actively engaged in healthcare reform are actually doing something progressive, whereas in Europe they appear to be concentrating on smearing Ferrari and Marlboro by suggesting that the Ferrari/Ducati barcode is “subliminal advertising.” Luca is suggesting that the scientists involved should have more important things to worry about.

    I don’t think it’s anything to do with climate change. Though given Luca’s apparent paranoia, him being a climate change denier wouldn’t be a huge surprise.

    1. Yes, but he is ignorant of the fact, that the US health care bill is meant to get it closer to European health care services, which are mostly free or low cost and generally available. The doctors do not have to do something, as we allready have it over here.

      1. I didn’t say I agreed with Luca, only that I (think I) understood what his point was!

    2. No, I think his (rather confused) point is that even Americans are putting their energies in the right places while in Europe people are trying to prove subliminal messaging – I assume he’s trying to portray attempts to prove that Ferrari are skirting the rules as just plain misguided. What the logic with American healthcare reform is – only Luca knows.

      1. You are probably right there, he just happend to say a lot of crap making his point.
        Maybe having the team and partner name in the media is the only reason for this.

        1. Oh, don’t worry, the US still sticks a ridiculous amount of energy into significantly more inane things.

  11. Luca has just shot himself and Ferrari in the foot. Just as everyone was starting to forget about “Barcodegate” he has to go and bring it up again… well done.

  12. The other question that comes out of this must be, if tobacco sponsorship is banned in F1, how can any team still have ‘Marlboro’ in its name?
    Surely that is breaking the rules, no matter what logos are used on the cars?

    1. newnhamlea1
      4th May 2010, 13:57

      I was not aware that the ban was enforced by the Fia, i think it is only enforced in countries where tobacco sponsorship is banned.

      1. Tobacco *sponsorship* is perfectly legal. It’s tobacco *advertising* that is banned. Legally speaking, Phillip Morris can (and do) pay Ferrari a lot of money *not* to display Marlboro logos on their car. The doctors’ (rather shaky IMO) point is that the barcode on Ferrari’s livery constitutes a “subliminal” advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes and, hence, flouts the European laws that outlaw tobacco adverts.

        1. So if Ferrari win say the French GP (should it ever come back), in the post race interview would they have to say “and in 1st place, driver X for Sucdria Ferrari mmmabommoooormoo”? Surely having the word in the official team name is part of the sponsorship/advertising package.

      2. Tobacco sponsorship is banned in Formula 1 (It is not in moto gp). This is why all the teams ended their association en-masse with tobbacco companies and also why Ferrari do not display a full marlboro logo (They would be allowed to by law in Malaysia)

        As far as the FIA are concerned Ferrari are Ferrari. Not Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.

        Funny thing is, this has given loads of free press to the Marlboro brand so if the doctors did really care blabbing to the media is not a clever idea.

        1. Nowhere in the F1 Sporting Regulations does it say that tobacco sponsorship is banned. Unless you know different?

  13. The Pink Bengal
    4th May 2010, 12:54

    You know what? I don’t read anything more into that statement than a guy who hasn’t really thought very hard about how people will interpret his words.
    So what if he said something about inducing smoking? That’s the whole point of commercials and adds anyway isn’t it; to use the product?
    Honestly, I have never associated the bar code with Marlboro before this whole thing got started. Now that it has been brought to my attention I can see it…kind of.
    I do not, however, consider it a “distinct logo”. I feel it is ridiculous to ban something because it sort of, kind of, looks like something that has to do with cigarettes. Sure, smoking is bad but come on!
    I like to think that we are all intelligent enough to be able to decide ourselves whether to start smoking or not.

    And the people that DO start smoking from seeing a bar code on a f1 car, well, I’m afraid those can’t be helped anyway. ;)

    1. The whole point is that this kind of advertising is banned. Do you remember when they banned poster ads? The tobacco companies reply was to paint shops in the livery of fag packets and sponsor concerts/events. This too was outlawed, but it didn’t stop the fag barons going to the developing world and doing the exact same thing there. Whether you like to admit it or not advertising works. Otherwise what company would flush millions of pounds/Dollars on it? It is called brand awareness. If you have to make an unconscious choice, you will pick the ‘barcode brand’ over the others.

      Next time you need car insurance I bet that rat like creature pops ‘simples’ into your head as well as the opera singer, followed closely by a red telephone.

      If you think you are immune then talk to Darren Brown. He will shock you.

      1. Actually Tobacco companies profits went through the roof when they banned advertising.

        The number of people smoking didn’t decrease but the amount of money spent on advertising went next to 0.

        For a long time the argument was trying to work out whether people took up smoking from advertisements or just changed brands.

        1. Thousands of people die each year from the habit, with zero advertising to recruit new smokers, profits will decline. In my youth my mates smoked B&H gold just because of the surreal adverts. Others chose Marlboro because of the high tar content. They thought it made them more manley. I never smoked, I could see all the negatives but no positives at all.

      2. The Pink Bengal
        5th May 2010, 6:41

        Rat like creature? Opera? Red Telephone?
        Sorry, I have no idea what that even means.
        Then again, I live in Finland :P

  14. It is simply more free advertising for his sponsor.
    ie Marlboro.
    Monte saw that indeed the story was dead, and no longer newsworthy, so he “Idea, there,s might more milege in it”
    So he releases a statement, pushing the story into the headlines again.
    And what have we been talking about, and how many have Marboro been mentioned.

  15. If di Montezemolo’s statement were liberally peppered with references to Marlboro, It would be pretty obvious that this was just an attempt to get a bit more free publicity for Philip Morris and reinforce any association people make between the barcode and the cigarettes.

    With no mention of the red and white brand, the point of making the statement is a little less clear – but it’s still got us talking about it now, hasn’t it! Maybe a TV commentator will make a passing reference to the association between this particular brand and the most famous team in one of the world’s most exciting sports, which will be heard by millions of people worldwide – I’m sure Ferrari and Philip Morris wouldn’t object too much if they did.

  16. i used to think the way tobacco sponsors got around the ban in some countries was very funny,best for me West on the Zakspeed read East…
    but the joke is not funny anymore so IIIIII **** off!

  17. Another whinny from the prancing horse turns out to be yet another whine from the prancing horse.

  18. Keith, I am rather disappointed in your tone with this article. I am fully aware that this is a UK site and the majority on this are British but can I remind you that a press does exist outside the UK and CEO’s/directors and company heads do also reply to comments in their own press. La Republica (our principal quality centre left paper) have been discussing this subject over the last few days and thus prompted a reply from Montezemolo. To give you an idea of what has been said would also have to include the links seen by many that Mclaren had with Malrboro, Williams with Rothmans Lotus with JPS and then Camel etc. Ferrari(LdM) claimed that without any advertising on that particular area of the car the general assumption would be that was where the Marlboro logo used to be. To clarify another question tobacco advertising is banned however tobacco sponsorship is not. If a company want to plough money into any sport and receive no publicity that is entirely their choice. West continued with Mclaren even after all branding was removed. The key difference is that they had a 5 year deal and Ferrari had 10, whether this is to continue after next year is yet to be seen .Finally, the comments regarding scientists having better things to do are not that ridiculous are they? Many people who posted previously on this topic were not even aware of any connection with the Marlboro brand until this was highlighted. I do disagree with all forms of tobacco promotion subliminal or not but ultimately would prefer a daft barcode over not being allowed into the World Cup if I have the wrong drink or beer in my hand as will happen with the Olympics.

    1. Ned Flanders
      4th May 2010, 13:54

      Rampante we know you like Ferrari, but you can’t possibly be standing up for them on this one can you?!

      (although I agree the World Cup sponsorship restrictions are ridiculous. I heard on QI (a British TV quiz show) that thousands of Dutch fans at the last World Cup weren’t allowed in the stadium with their orange ‘beer trousers’ on because the logo they displayed was of a rival beer to the official World Cup beer supplier. They forced them all to watch the game in their underpants. Madness…)

      1. I am standing up for anyone to have a right to talk whether it be right (in anyone’s opinion) or not. Ferrari do not deny they have a commercial tie to Philip Morris but do deny the barcode is a Marlboro advert. Which as far as I’m concerned it is. He was making a statement in reply for the Italian press not because he decided just to go off in a rant which was the main indication here. We are much more vocal here in Italy and not as reserved as in other countries. A cultural diversity that we all benefit from. PS I am a great fan of QI, I get DVD’s sent to me here.

        1. Ferrari do not deny they have a commercial tie to Philip Morris but do deny the barcode is a Marlboro advert.

          That’s not what Montezemolo said. Montezemolo said words to the effect of “no-one’s going to look at a barcode and start smoking”.

          1. “That’s not what Montezemolo said. Montezemolo said words to the effect of “no-one’s going to look at a barcode and start smoking”.

            He meant that even if someone islooking at the BARCODE and misunderstands it as a MARLBORO he would not start smoking.

            I have heard a lot of his interviews and I can confidently tell u that he only meant this.The way he speaks english is different from what u spk.U need to listen to it carefully not just take his comment from some websites and come to ur own conclusion.

          2. “I am standing up for anyone to have a right to talk whether it be right (in anyone’s opinion)”

            Funny you should say so, that is exactly the sentence used as a pun in the movie: “Thankyou for smoking”

          3. The way he speaks english is different from what u spk.U need to listen to it carefully not just take his comment from some websites and come to ur own conclusion.

            The quotes are from his own statement issued by Ferrari. If it’s not what he meant to say then the problem is at their end.

          4. The Pink Bengal
            5th May 2010, 6:47

            “…Montezemolo said words to the effect of “no-one’s going to look at a barcode and start smoking”….”

            I actually agree with that.

      2. Your right about the dutch fans. On the other hand, the beer company involved did do this on purpose.
        – it was cheaper than the sponsorship deal
        – the publicity was better, they were on the “underdog” side of it.
        All of this while knowing fully well, that they were going against the rules.

        1. Goes to show, what Marketing gurus come up with.

      3. How stupid! You pay the FIFA big bucks (VERY BIG BUCKS) to see the XXXXXXX game and they force you to watch it in your underpants! How can you not hate the FIFA???

    2. From these media dicussions you mention, is there any conclusion that can be made about how this matter is seen?

      On the subject of the advertizing, I happen to have a lot of marketing background and know the subcontious things make the best marketing. Even negative publicity is better than non at all.

      Ferrari signed their 10 year deal shortly before the ban would come into place, they were planning on going on this way. West saw out an agreement for only 1 year.
      And as for the doctors, their comments were a lot less time consuming than all following turbulence, so pretty efficient at it, weren’t they?

      I know you are a Ferrari fan, but for me (no fan of any specific team currently) this kind of things makes me like your team even less.
      I would like them to be straight forward about it, as everybody knows they are associated with a tabacco brand. The whole thing might only be mentioned because they have started discussions on prolonging the deal.

  19. BasCB, I agree fully with your comments on advertising and there being no such thing as bad publicity. I have work within the wine industry for 20 years and have seen studies by the main European supermarkets that show terrifying results to subcontious marketing. Playing German themed music in UK supermarkets can increase sales by up to 18%. Floral scents in the air conditioning increase flower sales by even more. Shelving colours encourage people to but specific products etc. In reply to the question sadly this is Italy and the debate goes on.

    1. Thanks for the reaction Rampante. Probably talking about this is a safer issue for the media than getting into details of the Greek state finances (a risk of getting to close to Italian finances or politics for that matter).

      Lets hope there will be something els to talk about after the weekend. Like Felipe smashing to a devastating race win or who knows, Schumi getting on the podium.

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