McLaren has become the latest Formula One team to renew its association with tobacco companies, signing a deal with British American Tobacco to promote its “reduced risk products.”
Tobacco sponsorship was banned in Formula One at the end of the 2006 season, but McLaren’s deal with BAT comes hot on the heels of Ferrari’s association with the Philip Morris brand Mission Winnow which has raised eyebrows ahead of next month’s Australian Grand Prix.
The deal brings BAT back into Formula One, more than a decade after the British American Racing team was sold to Honda.
McLaren said in a statement that the deal “centred on accelerating BAT’s transforming agenda, leveraging its portfolio of potentially reduced risk products, aiming to deliver the world’s tobacco and nicotine consumers a better tomorrow”.
BAT’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kingsley Wheaton, said that the sponsorship will “drive greater resonance” towards their electronic cigarette products.
“We’re extremely proud and excited about this new partnership, further enabling us to accelerate the pace at which we innovate and transform ourselves.
“It gives us a truly global platform with which to drive greater resonance of our potentially reduced risk products, including our Vype, Vuse and glo brands.
“Ultimately, innovation and technology will support us in creating a better tomorrow’ for our consumers worldwide.”
Formula One previously enjoyed a close relationship with the tobacco giants – with McLaren running in the red-and-white livery of Marlboro for more than 20 years, while rivals Williams were sponsored at various times by Camel, Rothmans and Winfield.
The tie-up between McLaren and BAT follows the Ferrari cars running with Mission Winnow branding late in the 2018 season, which has caused controversy ahead of next month’s Australian Grand Prix.
One school of thought is that the Mission Winnow logo is too similar to the Marlboro logo, which is also owned by Philip Morris, and appeared on Ferrari’s cars for decades.
Both the federal Department of Health and Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services are investigating the legality of the branding, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority has instigated an inquiry after Ten and Foxtel broadcast last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, where Ferrari ran with the Mission Winnow logo.
Like BAT, Philip Morris also claims Mission Winnow is not promoting any of its products, and therefore doesn’t fall foul of the laws preventing tobacco sponsorship.
“The initiative and the symbols and logos used on the livery of the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow and the website comply with the laws that apply to our activities in Australia and the State of Victoria,” Philip Morris executive Tommaso di Giovanni told motorsport.com.
“We are aware of the debate on Mission Winnow in Australia and we are working with the organisers of the local grand prix to understand the concerns of the authorities and give them an answer.
“Mission Winnow does not advertise or promote our company’s products or product brands. Rather, it is designed to talk about our commitment to improving ourselves in everything we do.
“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.”