Ferrari has unveiled a revised livery ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix that helps the team’s major sponsor Philip Morris International to create subliminal advertising for its cigarette brands that are no longer able to directly advertise on the F1 cars due to restrictions.
Ferrari has had a long-time relationship with Philip Morris International’s Marlboro brand which has continued despite tobacco related advertising ended in 2006 and the cars are still used to promote the brand in some global markets where there are no restrictions on tobacco advertising.
Ferrari’s relationship with Philip Morris International has grown closer in the last couple of years as the current team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, is a former vice-president and the recently appointed Ferrari company CEO, Louis Camilleri, is a former Chairman of the cigarette maker.
This latest subliminal campaign is based around an idea that Philip Morris has dubbed “Mission Winnow” which it explains as being related to “a new global initiative to create engagement around the role of science, technology and innovation as a powerful force for good in any industry”.
In Suzuka, at least, the branding is significant and emphasises the huge sway that the tobacco maker still holds over Ferrari's liveries. The "MW" logo appears on the sides of the engine cover, the front wings and on the top of the nosecone while the "Mission Winnow" name is splayed out across the rear wing, as well as the rear wing's endplates, the side of the nosecone and the front wing endplates, the latter position where in a throwback to lat ninties advertising ".com" appears tagged onto the name.
According to a statement issued by Philip Morris International yesterday, the company’s CEO André Calantzopoulos explained the initiative as follows: “Through Mission Winnow we want to let the world know how we have changed, to share our pride in the transformation that the people of PMI have achieved, as well as our dedication to rigorous science and innovation that can lead to a better future.
“We will use this global platform as a window into the new PMI and to challenge preconceptions, as we know there are many who may have doubts about us and our motivations,” Calantzopoulos continued. “Our partnership with Scuderia Ferrari gives us the opportunity to build on many encouraging individual conversations with critics and supporters alike and reach out to a broad audience to engage at scale.”
It remains to be seen if regulators will push back at this latest attempt to work around the restrictions or if the “Mission Winnow” explanation will be perceived as creating enough distance from Philip Morris International’s tobacco brands to be permissable.
In 2010, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, the team was forced to remove its infamous “barcode” livery after mounting pressure from anti-smoking and health campaigners and a year later the Marlboro tag was dropped from the team’s official name, which, up to then, had been “Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro”.
While the cars have always been painted in red, Italy’s national racing colours, there are visible white sections of the bodywork of the SF71H that bring the livery neatly into line with Marlboro’s red and white colour scheme.
Even if Ferrari are pressured to remove the new “Mission Winnow” livery scheme it has already gained significant worldwide publicity over the last twenty-four hours and further served to closely associate the cigarette maker with the F1 team, an almost indelible link that actually goes back 45 years, which may well have been the core objective of this week's exercise.
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