Australia investigates Mission Winnow smokescreen for Marlboro

Ferrari’s principal sponsor Mission Winnow has caused a stir in Australia as questions are being asked about the branding that will appear on the red cars at the season opener in Melbourne next month.

It is no secret that Mission Winnow is a Philip Morris International (PMI) initiative that broke cover last year at the Japanese Grand Prix, which immediately prompted the question at the time: What are they selling?

Australian authorities are ascertaining if Mission Winnow is simply a smokescreen to promote the Marlboro brand whose long association with the Scuderia has taken on various branding guises, even when cigarette advertising was banned as it is now.

For anyone who has followed Formula 1, and know the history of the partnership that dates back to the eighties, it is patently obvious that the new branding is another way of promoting Marlboro and turning the association from a subtle below-the-line programme to an in your face hard sell of whatever they are selling.

In an effort to explain the reason to exist, the Mission Winnow website states:

“The tobacco industry is a highly regulated space, and we always respect the laws that apply to our activities. This campaign is no different and respects all applicable laws, including those around the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, for example. The campaign does not advertise or promote any PMI-branded products.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Philip Morris Australia told The Age: “Philip Morris Australia’s parent company, Philip Morris International and Scuderia Ferrari have a global partnership, which is wholly managed outside of Australia.”

In other words, nothing to do with us down here, call Switzerland.

The report quotes anti-smoking campaigner John Cunningham, who highlighted the matter with authorities, “This [Mission Winnow] website actually makes it much clearer what they are trying to achieve, and what sort of business they are in.”

“It has nothing to do with F1 cars, that’s for sure. Tobacco companies are finally admitting that their only means of financial survival is to get people addicted to nicotine.”

“They’re going to pour money into researching how to do that most effectively — not for the benefit of their addicted customers, but for the benefit of their profits and shareholders,” added Cunningham.

Mission Winnow branding appeared prominently for the first time on the Ferrari cars at Suzuka last year, and this year the branding is expected to be seen on the engine cover, rear-wing and on the race suits of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc as well as team clothing.

Philip Morris and Ferrari partnership goes smoke free