Motorsport: Kind hearts or hard business?
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We have seen what the new team sponsors and car colours are like, but not necessarily what the cars are going to look like come the Australian Grand Prix.
As usual, the best view of the comparative performance of each car and driver will be at the second four-day test beginning on February 26 — apart, that is, from the race weekend in March at Albert Park.
Hopefully the Williams Formula 1 team will manage to get its 2019 car ready for this test, having missed the first one. There are already teams with a grimace, rather than a smile.
One thing of note is the reappearance of giant tobacco companies, under a different guise, sponsoring two teams.
Ferrari has long been supported by Philip Morris, and its Marlboro cigarette brand. That company has sponsored the team for more than four decades, much of that time without showing the Marlboro brand name, but instead using clever marketing tools, including a barcode logo.
When cigarette promotion around sports was just becoming more restrictive, Philip Morris was pushing the brand hard.
In Germany, cigarette advertising in sports was banned earlier than most countries, so at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim the McLaren cars ran with either the drivers’ names or simply McLaren on the side pods.
The main entrance to Hockenheim was by way of a bridge over a motorway, and the boundary between the stadium and public areas fell at the summit of the bridge.
Just a metre on the public side, in the middle of the many thousands who used to flock to the event, was a line of minimally clad promotion girls giving out thousands of packets of Marlboro cigarettes to anybody who wanted or did not want them.
Companies found many other ways around the ban.
The WEST brand put EAST on the McLaren cars.
The Formula 1 grid during the 80s was awash with cigarette brands and it was forecast that motor racing and other sports would be threatened when tobacco advertising was banned.
From the early days, the huge money on offer had become the lifeblood of the sport.
On May 12, 1968, the colours of the Imperial Tobacco Company’s brand Gold Leaf appeared on the Lotus of Graham Hill and the look of the sport was never the same again.
Imperial Tobacco led that charge and the cars took on the look of cigarette packets with iconic liveries that still linger on as the best seen on track.
There was the imperious John Player Special black and gold, the 1979 Gitanes Ligier and my own favourite, the Marlboro branding on the 1988 McLaren MP4.
Jump to 2018 and Philip Morris launched something called Mission Winnows.
That logo now sits proudly on the Ferrari where once the Marlboro logo resided.
Now how about this for marketing speak from the director of global Communication for Philip Morris International, Tommaso di Giovanni?
“Mission Winnow is a window to the new Philip Morris International and our partners, to our commitment and the stimuli that drive us to improve and evolve and to contribute to the progress of society.”
Coincidentally, the branding on the car in 2018 was in similar colour and size to the previous incumbent of that space.
British American Tobacco (BAT) now graces the 2019 McLaren F1 cars with its “A Better Tomorrow” branding.
BAT chief marketing officer, Kingsley Wheaton is quoted as saying: “This is a global technology partnership with McLaren, with which to accelerate our transforming tobacco story.
“That story is about giving consumers alternative ways to enjoy tobacco and nicotine and gradually move them from combustible cigarettes to a new range of products.
“And we believe the outcome of that will be, for BAT and for our consumers, a better tomorrow.”
Altruism or selling more fags?
You be the judge.