Criticism of Ferrari Marlboro barcode prompts outburst from Montezemolo

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

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

  1. 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!

  2. Icthyes said on 4th May 2010, 13:40

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

  3. rampante said on 4th May 2010, 13:45

    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.

    • Ned Flanders said on 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…)

      • rampante said on 4th May 2010, 14:09

        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.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2010, 14:15

          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”.

          • Mad said on 4th May 2010, 15:18

            “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.

          • Tango said on 4th May 2010, 15:20

            “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”

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2010, 15:25

            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.

          • The Pink Bengal said on 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.

      • BasCB said on 4th May 2010, 14:36

        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.

      • MEmo said on 5th May 2010, 2:39

        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???

    • BasCB said on 4th May 2010, 14:08

      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.

  4. rampante said on 4th May 2010, 14:17

    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.

    • BasCB said on 4th May 2010, 14:34

      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.

  5. rob said on 4th May 2010, 14:52

    Buttons father wears a pink top to subliminally advertise tampons.

  6. Xanathos said on 4th May 2010, 15:14

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

  7. W154 said on 4th May 2010, 15:16

    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.

    • Ned Flanders said on 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

      • W154 said on 4th May 2010, 16:26

        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.

      • rampante said on 4th May 2010, 17:36

        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 $$$$$$.

  8. VXR said on 4th May 2010, 15:26

    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?

    • 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.

  9. 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.

  10. DaveW said on 4th May 2010, 16:09

    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.

  11. mvi said on 4th May 2010, 16:11

    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!

  12. rampante said on 4th May 2010, 17:10

    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.

    • Geo said on 4th May 2010, 18:34

      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.

    • DaveW said on 4th May 2010, 19:33

      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.

      • rampante said on 4th May 2010, 20:17

        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.

  13. wasiF1 said on 4th May 2010, 17:23

    Pointless business

  14. Geo said on 4th May 2010, 18:29

    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!

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