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. Buttons father wears a pink top to subliminally advertise tampons.

    1. lol. That is the most random-est thing I have ever read.

  2. That’s it. He has totally lost it now.

  3. For the past 20 odd years every Formula 1 man and his dog have known what the vertical stripes on the engine covers of a McLaren and a Ferrari represented. Every other Moto GP man and his other dog know what the vertical stripes on the fairing of a Ducatti represent. Joe Public wouldnt have a clue. Maybe 1% of the 6000 million people in the world know they represent advertising for Marlboro and 99.999% of them coudn’t care a rats bottom about it. They are not going to rush out and buy a packet of cancer sticks because they see those stripes on the side of a Ferrari / Ducatti in the same way they are not going to transfer all their hard earned savings from their bank to Santander or RBS because they see their advertising on Ferrari/ Williams cars. We know the advertising is there to pay the bills to keep our cars/ bikes going. We’re too smart to get sucked in by the advertising, so can we please give the dog a bone and put this topic to bed.

    1. Ned Flanders
      4th May 2010, 15:25

      Er… if people are so smart that we don’t get sucked in, why are Marlboro spending billions of pounds on advertising?! Clearly, most of us are more likely to use product/ service if it’s being advertised in F1, whether we realise or not

      1. Er….No
        I would like to think that the smarter members of the F1/ Moto GP fraternity dont get sucked in by advertising speil and hyperbole and actually purchase products / services based on quality, price, use, and needs basis.I hope you’re not saying that as you stand in the pouring rain at Silverstone this year , you will feel the need to reach for a fag every time Alonso and Stoner go screaming past just because you see the Marlboro logo.
        Marlboro dont spend billions on advertising but regretably do spend millions in “third world” countries which are the only ones left where they can openly advertise their vile product.

      2. They want you to use their product if you use another from a competitor. Are you going to buy a Barbie bike because they make a good ad? Target audience is the principal of global marketing. Did any Ferrari fan buy a PC or laptop purely because it had an AMD processor? Did you change your bank when RBS,HSBC or Santander came into the sport? The answer is probably not but you became aware of the company or product due to the association and that’s what these crazy crazy people spend $$$$$$.

  4. I would still like to know why it is that if the logo isn’t advertising (whether it be to get people to start smoking or to simply change brands), what the hell benefit does Philip Morris get out of giving Ferrari 1 billion dollars or so every five or six years?

    1. Phillip Morris actually buy all of Ferrari’s advertising space and sub-let it. So the arrangement doesn’t actually cost them that much, as many of the costs are recouped.

  5. Greetings,

    I thought that with the ban of tobacco advertising in F1, this would bring in the mighty Coke & Pepsi.
    With the failure of the now defunct Virgin team with the Virgin Cola brand, it does not seem likely. Though the Redbull success may trigger the sponsorship.

  6. The issue is not dead. As long as the team shill for a cigarettec company, it should remain a fair question of Ferrari why they use the recognized racing-logo of Malboro when other teams have had to part with cigarette money, often to deleterious effects on their budgets. The name of the team, in English, is “Scudiera Ferrari Marlboro.” The bar code is in the shape and colors of the Marlboro logo and it is simply dishonest to suggest that it is not meant to represent the packaging of Marlboro cigarettes. If Coca Cola were banned but sponsored coke-red cars with bars within the area where their white curvy logo would be we would not be asking whether it is really a Coke logo and meant to move cans of sugar water from shelves. So any suggestion that the team does not advertise cigarettes is ludicrous. No other team advertises cigarettes, and given the bar on this source of funds, this is a major advantage to Ferrari. Given the rise of the Asian market for F1, and given the massive cigarette consumption there and the lax advertising rules for them, I would not be surprised of a new team attempted to do exactly what Ferrari is doing now with another brand.

  7. Interesting that we look quite fondly at past efforts by teams to remove their tobacco advertising and replace them with memorable symbols or clever witticisms!

    As some have pointed out, the official name of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro as used by official bodies such as FIA and FOM clearly promotes the Marlboro brand, while it is debatable whether the barcode stripes do. The doctors seemed to have overlooked the obvious. (Why they didn’t look at a pack of Marlboros before directing their attack is also beyond me. Sigh!)

    I guess seeing something else where we expect a sponsor name is similar to seeing a group photo with one person’s face missing or replaced by an X or an apple or a lion’s head – we zoom right in to it, we want to know who it is, the story, why that particular replacement. Those who know the story get the connection and in future may think of it, those who don’t won’t.

    Montezemolo’s statement doesn’t particularly look like an outburst or a rant. It’s pretty reasonable in response to questions and all the commentary.

    In 2007, the EU wrote a letter to Ferrari about the Marlboro advertising in the few GP races of that year that allowed it. The grounds for criticism were that the advertising was transmitted throughout the world from those races. As a solution they suggested Ferrari stop the sponsorship deal with Marlboro. All the advertising stopped but not the team sponsorship, suggesting that it is legal.

    I’ve been trying to find some clear statements on EU sites, but haven’t found anything useful that distinguishes between advertising and sponsorship. On the other hand, they do compare the challenge of tobacco advertising on the web to that of child pornography, arms trade and terrorism!

  8. Whether or not we like smoking the consumption of cigarettes is still legal. If a particular country or trade area bans adverts for a particular type of product this is for the country to decide, not us who are not within that community. I do not condone smoking but everyone has a right to do so. Tobacco manufactures have taken advantage of different advertising regulations particularly in Asia and Africa but they are not promoting smoking as being a healthy pastime as they did in the 40’s and 50’s. Chewing gum advertising is banned in Singapore not only because it is classed as a pollutant but there are claims there that it causes ulcers and can lead to mouth cancers. China bans a whole host of products and don’t start about the Middle Eastern States.
    This is a very dangerous road to go down. If some of the lunatics in charge get their way we will no longer be “allowed” to watch archive footage of races due to the images that may “corrupt”. This may sound alarmist but be assured it is not. How many people have tried or wanted to take a picture of their child, brother or sister at a school event. If you said that 30 years ago that it would become against the rules you would be locked up.
    We have the greatest access and freedom of information in human history and we (all by default using the internet) have to protect this.

    1. When you compare the freedoms we had 20 years ago compared to now, 1990 vs 2010, from a UK perspective we are like a dictatorship in some dodgey country.

      You can’t smoke, drink, dress in anything other than what could be mistaken for women’s clothes, make a joke, laugh at anything anymore without being ridiculed or locked up.

      We went down a slipery path starting in the late 1990’s and it’s getting worse. Perhaps one day the people will grow up and say we don’t need the government to tell us what to think, but so many are brainwashed wimps nowadays there is not much hope of this.

    2. Regarding the advertising bans, recall that in the U.S. the advertising limits result from settlements related to civil suits against tobacco companies for their campaign of false public claims about their products over decades, and which would have otherwise continued to some extent unabated. It’s a direct reflection of facts determined in courts of law that, when it comes to advertising, the companies lie. Thus, it is entirely reasonable to ban advertising from these companies in certain contexts, notwithstanding that the products are legal, because their advertising is proven to dissemble.

      So there is no issue about whether our “freedoms” are under attack. Our freedoms are in question when corporations are free to inundate us and our children with false, injurious information. Accordingly, there is no slippery slope between banning tobacco advertisement and tyranny, or whatever, and no connection between that and chewing gun or grain alchohol, etc.

      1. As a European the last thing I would want is to go down the US litigation road. People being sued for looking like horses in divorce cases and failed suicide attempts suing because someone was sold a rope with a breaking strain of 400lb and he was only 210lb and broke his leg as a result of trying to hang himself when the rope broke is not a place I want to live.
        Tragically for you all the corporations you mean are not on “our” side of the pond.

  9. Pointless business

  10. Maybe one day the world will grow out of this sillyness and teams will be allowed to have whichever sponsors they like.

    Snooker for one is really suffering from financial troubles due to lack of sponsors, when the likes of Embassy, Regal, Benson & Hedges all used to pump millions into sponsorship deals.

    I for one don’t smoke, and think it’s hilarious that people MIGHT take up smoking because they see a logo on tv.

    Those sort of people/idiots deserve to become chain smokers! :)

    One minute people say the politicians treat them like fools, the next minute they applaud nanny state bans on tobacco advertising because they can’t be trusted. LOL!

  11. I dunno why Ferrari fans post on here, it has to be the most anti-Italian F1 site ever. Ferrari have tobacco sponsorship, so what? That’s not illegal, they do not have the word “Marlboro” on their cars, they have done nothing wrong. Its the holier than thou attitude of the British media who are causing a fuss over nothing. When its a British team doing anything its fine. I can’t wait for when Ferrari leave F1 to these Anglo-Saxons.

    1. I’m not anti-Italian in the slightest – in fact I’m learning the language at present and am going there in the summer.

      I haven’t got anything against Ferrari or, for that matter, Toro Rosso or Jarno Trulli or Vitantonio Liuzzi.

      From what Rampante has told us (above) this story is being commented on in the Italian as well as the British media.

      And from what I’ve written I think you can see I wouldn’t have bothered to write about it a second time had it not been for Montezemolo feeling the need to comment on it again, making some questionable and I think rather telling points in doing so.

      1. Keith, I have nothing but admiration for you and the work you do. I have never questioned your bias or favouritism in the sport and it pleases me (you have mentioned before) that you are trying to learn Italian. The principle reason I visit this site is because of the balance you and others have. I only questioned this particular thread. Can I ask where are you going in the summer?

        1. Thanks rampante I really appreciate that. It’ll be my honeymoon, we’re going to Amalfi. Can’t wait!

          And yes, I am strictly forbidden from indulging in any F1-related visits, such as when we went to Lake Como a few years ago and squeezed in a trip to the Italian Grand Prix…

          1. I’m a northen Italian and as such cannot regard Amalfi as part of Italy( I’m ready for the backlash). It is however a wonderful part of Italy(sub continent) and one of the most spectacular coasts in Europe. All the very best to you and your future wife.

  12. Rachel, as everyone knows I am a Ferrari fan and I as I said earlier that I did not agree with the tone and content of the post by Keith. I am on this site far too many times every day, the reason being is that here in Italy most F1 blogs are full of rubbish and very little constructive debate. I am an Italian in my mid 40’s who finds this site one of the very best out there. Contributors are usually fair and balanced and many have very good knowledge of the sport. If you read many of the Italian sites you would know what I mean. It annoys me greatly the Ferrari fans here(in Italy) who feel it is a natural passage for them without knowing anything about F1. I am always aware that this is a UK site and many of the posts can contain a bias but in general Keith does a great job to balance this. I have lived and studied in the UK and I am fully aware of the lack of information and knowledge in the UK press. Here we have too much (if that is possible) coverage of F1 with daily sports papers with a minimum of 2 broadsheet pages on F1 every day. To all the UK ( and others) posters, keep it up and I hope you all win nothing!

    1. Yes, I agree with you. We have a lot of coverage on Ferrari but most British press neglect to mention the content on Ferrari’s site is not solely for the British contingent.

  13. I donno what s the need for this article.It is nothing constructive nor anything related to F1.
    It is the companies(FERRARI) decision whether or not to accept a sponsorship.Of course each company has to have a corporate responsibility.But if ur conclusion is that FERRARI is promoting smoking via its F1 programme,then it is absolutely ridiculous.I am not sure when u started this site.But on seeing ur profile it seems that u have been watching F1 from Senna days.Do u have any article criticising other teams for their partnership with tobacco companies?If u dont have one,then this article is a mere ANTI-FERRARI one not written keeping social responsibility in mind as u say so.

    1. Do u have any article criticising other teams for their partnership with tobacco companies?

      Are any of the other teams sponsored by tobacco firms? No. There’s your answer.

      1. I meant “Do u have any article criticising other teams for their partnership with tobacco companies in the past when there tobacco advertising was not banned?”

        1. You totally missed the point, most of us don’t want to criticize partnership with tobacco companies, why should I care? The point is, there is no denying that the bar code IS tobacco advertising(Montezemolo himself is not denying it), which is banned in today’s F1.

          Whether the bar code will induce fans to smoke is not the point, Montezemolo think not, that is totally fine. But don’t be misled by him, OK? He’s not denying that the bar code is tobacco advertising, and tobacco advertising is banned.

        2. This is not about tobacco sponsoring in general, but about the fact that Ferrari is acting like we’re stupid in denying that their barcode logo is designed to show their Marlboro connection.

  14. Clearly at speed , that bar code changes into Marlboro…ya but those Marlboro pit babes make want to smoke…:o)

  15. F1Nirvana
    5th May 2010, 4:28

    If I ran Ferrari, I would put a cowboy riding on the back of the prancing horse just to stick it to them. Then get Alonso to wear a cowboy hat and boots around the paddock, while Massa lasso’s chicks walking down the pit lane to give them free packs of autographed smokes.

    So these bleeding hart buzz killers should hug a tree then shoot themselves. Don’t about it bothering your kids. Have you seen how violent and addictive video games are these days. Maybe worry about that and leave my racing alone.

  16. F1Nirvana
    5th May 2010, 4:30

    Don’t (worry) about it bothering your kids…….. ooooppps

  17. Ben Curly
    5th May 2010, 5:17

    I don’t see how this new statement contradicts what Ferrari said earlier on the issue. Basically what they are saying is:

    “The so called barcode is an integral part of the livery of the car, if it was a case of advertising branding, Philip Morris would have to own a legal copyright on it. It’s not subliminal advertising, and frankly, it’s verging on the ridiculous to claim that the colour red or a graphic design which shows a bar code could induce people to smoke.”

    Or at least that’s how I see it.

  18. Ben Curly
    5th May 2010, 5:22

    Besides it’s all just a game. We all know that the barcode means “Marlboro”, but some people who are new to the sport need to be reminded of that. I think that’s what Luca is doing here, he reminds people of their number one sponsor. It’s pretty clever actually, if they can get away with it.

  19. Pengo (Blake Merriam)
    5th May 2010, 8:39

    And of course alcohol advertising is also banned if I’m not mistaken, yet Force India has “Kingfisher” all over their car and drivers clothes. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s Kingfisher AIRLINES, not the beer. Never mind that the logo is the same.

    Those that have spent some time in India may appreciate that while alcohol advertising is banned, many beer and whiskey companies promote other products with the same logo of their beer or spirit that has nothing to do with the alcoholic drink. My favorite is Fosters Packaged Drinking water.

    There is a whiskey called Royal Challenge in India. Can’t advertise your drink? Buy an IPL 20/20 Cricket team and call it the “Royal Challengers”! Problem solved!

    1. I’m not so sure that alcohol advertising is banned. McLaren has Johnnie Walker on their cars for example.

      1. Also, Mumm sponsors the podium (in non-muslim countries).

      2. Pengo (Blake Merriam)
        5th May 2010, 21:33

        Ah! Very true. I stand corrected.

  20. Echo the words of BasCB – Lets hope there will be something els to talk about after the weekend.

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