Thursday, 8 July 2010

Beyond the Bars: What's Next for Marlboro's Sponsorship of Ferrari?

This article is by Doug Pierce from RaceFansTV and he looks at the recent controversy surrounding Marlboro and Ferrari
F1 sponsorship as a promotional tool for tobacco companies was thought to have come to the end of the road. Since the 2007 season, no teams have explicitly shown tobacco advertising – including cars, apparel, equipment, and track signage. With the EU-wide ban on tobacco advertising in effect, many tobacco sponsors withdrew as they figured they would not get their money worth with the limited exposure their sponsorship now provides. One company, Philip Morris International, however, entered into a $1 billion relationship for 2005-2011 with Ferrari, now the last team left with a sponsorship contract from a tobacco company.
Like all other teams, Ferrari ceased putting a tobacco sponsor’s logo on its car and elsewhere. The official team name, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, and the color red would remain. To replace the spot where the Marlboro logo once was, a tripartite red-and-black barcode adorned the team.
By 2010, anti-tobacco activists were in a furor at what they saw was subliminal advertising. They claimed the team's barcode and color red evoked the sponsor – Marlboro – in everything but actual type. Leading doctors demanded an immediate government inquiry into the matter. Could a barcode really induce people to smoke?
In May 2010, while still maintaining such claims as "groundless allegations", Ferrari gave in to public pressure and scrubbed clean the barcode. Far from ending the relationship – the team had been sponsored by Marlboro since 1984 and as title sponsor beginning in 1997 – Marlboro told reporters it plans on renewing its contract.
The truth is that the Marlboro brand association with Ferrari is so strong, so enduring in the minds of those that even not involved in the motorsports community, that with or without a logo people will still associate the aura of the team and car with Marlboro cigarettes. It doesn't matter what Marlboro does next, as just seeing a red Ferrari car brings that association to mind. The reason Marlboro continues its sponsorship is because it gets right of first refusal to block other advertisers from moving in on its empty red space and building their own associations. Martin Lindstrom, a neuro-marketing expert who conducted a multimillion-dollar research project that exposed 2,000 consumers to branding materials while scanning their brains, explains, "Even though [tobacco] sponsorship is no longer legal, we carried out experiments just showing a Formula One car, and people immediately craved cigarettes

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