Ferrari’s long-time – and silent – title sponsor, the tobacco giant Philip Morris, has quietly extended its sponsorship deal with the Italian team, the Bloomberg news agency has confirmed.
Even though Formula 1 has been under a tobacco advertising ban for almost ten years and Ferrari cannot make any reference to its biggest sponsor, a new three-year deal has been agreed to.
The company’s Marlboro brand has a history with Formula 1 dating back to 1972, when it started sponsoring the BRM and Iso F1 teams. By 1974, it moved to McLaren and kicked off an iconic partnership that would last over 21 years – the red-and-white liveried McLarens won every Drivers’ Championship title bar one between 1984 and 1991.
It also began a minor sponsorship relationship with Ferrari in 1973, and by 1984 its stickers had a minor placement on the Italian team’s cars before upgrading to a primary sponsor role in 1993. By 1997, it was the team’s title sponsor.
By 2005, the European Union had declared tobacco sponsorship wholly illegal and a number of rival teams were ending their own sponsorship deals with competing cigarette brands.
Not so Ferrari, which inked a record $1 billion contract extension with Philip Morris until 2011, despite the company being unable to overtly place its logos on the team’s cars or uniforms. The terms of the new deal were for Philip Morris to negotiate and approve deals for new sponsors on Ferrari’s behalf, effectively leasing out advertising space on the car.
That didn’t stop the controversy, however. After 2008, the company resorted to covert barcode-style advertising, which subsequently came under attack from the European Commissioner for Health who claimed that it was subliminal advertising.
In 2011, Scuderia Ferrari presented an updated team logo which bears a striking resemblance to the design on a Marlboro cigarette pack, although it has (feebly) denied ant relationship between its logo and that of its chief sponsor, which remains the last of the tobacco sponsors still in motorsport.
Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, formerly a Marlboro executive, confirmed the latest sponsorship extension, which was apparently approved in a board meeting more than a year ago.
Not surprisingly, the team has not publicly announced the sponsorship re-extension.
Image via XPB Images