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

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

  1. Seems to me the media allow Ferrari to get away with much more than they should. Perhaps its that cosy cosy thing we too often see in politics where its aparrently more important to ‘toe the line’ to ‘be in the loop’. It would be nice to read some really thorough no holds barred investigative journalism on the red team as its well overdue.

    I’m now at the stage where I would be very interested to see how well F1 would fair without the red team, and how well they would fair without F1, and equally how long it would take for them to come running back to F1…

  2. All this talk of Ferrari Marlboro and seeing a red, white and black barcode on a sports vehicle makes me want to light up a Rothmans and drive a blue car…. wait a minute.


    My point being that Tobacco sponsorhip is really only going to affect those who already smoke. It might encourage a smoker to try Marlboro or buy a pack of Marlboro for a change. And if you don’t like Marlboro, you’ll just stick to your usual brand and think nothing of it and just enjoy the F1!!!

    If ANYONE is stupid enough to START smoking because they see a barcode (which if you didn’t know it meant Marlboro you wouldn’t think anything of it) then they are fools.

    I get the idea that it’s a dirty trick, because Ferrari put this barcode on because tobacco livery is banned, that then makes those who don’t know what it stands for ask, then they are told Marlboro, then they think ‘ooooo I’ll go buy a pack because it’s something to do with Ferarri, Alonso and Massa.

    But really people, we need to lighten up a little, the more things we ban the more people will feel crowded and crushed by authorities and thats not good in democracies.

  3. Every product that I’ve ever bought had a bar code. So I guess Ferrari is advertising them (every product that I’ve ever bought).

  4. Who like me in Malaysia when Alonso’s ferrari’s engine started smoking ran out and got some ciggys? I’m suprised no ones picked that one up!!LOL :)

  5. Philip Morris contract with Ferrari is really paying off after all. When is the last time so much ink was spilled over Marlboro?

    Now they’ve removed the barcode from the cars completely, and one of the quotes is: “This decision was taken in order to remove all speculation concerning the so-called ‘barcode’ which was never intended to be a reference to a tobacco brand.”
    I hate when people lie straight to my face! I just saw a picture of the Ferrari at the 1997 German Grand Prix (on Wikipedia) which has the white triangle shape pointing up into the red square, with the barcode below replacing the letters M-A-R-L-B-O-R-O.

  6. Every shape, colour and image is a form of advert, but idiots don’t realise that.

    You don’t have to have the word Heinz to recognise a Baked Bean can…

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