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. PJA said on 6th May 2010, 17:07

    Autosport are reporting that Ferrari have decided to remove the barcode from their cars.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/83346

  2. MtlRacer said on 6th May 2010, 17:16

    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.

  3. Kurt said on 8th June 2010, 1:37

    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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