Background: Sponsorship of Formula One (F1) motor racing, which has been used as an indirect medium of tobacco advertising for several decades, was prohibited by the 2005 European Union Tobacco Advertising Directive. Most F1 tobacco sponsorship of motor racing in the EU has since ceased, with the exception of the Scuderia Ferrari team, which continues to be funded by Philip Morris. In 2007, the Marlboro logo on Ferrari cars and other race regalia was replaced by an evolving ‘barcode’ design, which Ferrari later claimed was part of the livery of the car, and not a Marlboro advertisement.
Objective: To determine whether the ‘barcode’ graphics used by Ferrari represent ‘alibi’ Marlboro advertising.
Methods: Academic and grey literature, and online tobacco industry document archives, were searched using terms relevant to tobacco marketing and motorsport.
Results: Tobacco sponsorship of F1 motor racing began in 1968, and Philip Morris has sponsored F1 teams since 1972. Phillip Morris first used a ‘barcode’ design, comprising red vertical parallel lines below the word Marlboro on the British Racing Motors F1 car in 1972. Vertical or horizontal ‘barcode’ designs have been used in this way, latterly without the word Marlboro, ever since. The modern ‘barcode’ logos occupied the same position on cars and drivers' clothing as conventional Marlboro logos in the past. The shared use of red colour by Marlboro and Ferrari is also recognised by Philip Morris as a means of promoting brand association between Marlboro and Ferrari.
Conclusion: The Ferrari ‘barcode’ designs are alibi Marlboro logos and hence constitute advertising prohibited by the 2005 EU Tobacco Advertising Directive.