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. rachel said on 4th May 2010, 19:07

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2010, 20:53

      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.

      • rampante said on 4th May 2010, 22:04

        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?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2010, 22:56

          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…

          • rampante said on 4th May 2010, 23:18

            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.

  2. rampante said on 4th May 2010, 19:28

    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!

    • rachel said on 4th May 2010, 19:32

      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.

  3. Mad said on 4th May 2010, 20:03

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2010, 20:47

      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.

      • Mad said on 4th May 2010, 23:51

        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?”

        • Ade said on 5th May 2010, 9:00

          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.

        • Patrickl said on 5th May 2010, 9:04

          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.

  4. dj said on 4th May 2010, 23:31

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

  5. F1Nirvana said on 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.

  6. F1Nirvana said on 5th May 2010, 4:30

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

  7. Ben Curly said on 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.

  8. Ben Curly said on 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.

  9. Pengo (Blake Merriam) said on 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!

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

  11. Chaz said on 5th May 2010, 16:02

    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…

  12. F1 Novice said on 5th May 2010, 17:28

    Here’s one that that works:

    Philip Morris

    REMARKABLE that Ducati should come up with the same idea IF the link betwen them isn’t Philip Morris or their Marlboro Brand

  13. Geo said on 6th May 2010, 0:34

    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.

  14. Andrew said on 6th May 2010, 2:29

    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).

  15. David Smith said on 6th May 2010, 7:59

    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 :)

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