McLaren Racing Formula One team has confirmed that British American Tobacco (BAT) will sit out the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
BAT has voluntarily passed its branding rights for the race to convenience store chain 7-Eleven, one of the firm’s main retail partners in Australia.
The move follows Philip Morris International’s (PMI) decision to drop its ‘Mission Winnow’ campaign from the official team name, car livery and driver overalls at Scuderia Ferrari for the Melbourne race.
An insider at McLaren told SportBusiness Sponsorship the decision was not taken in response to Mission Winnow, but BAT was “mindful” of the Australian authorities’ tough stance on tobacco advertising, and took a voluntary decision to transfer its branding to 7-Eleven.
McLaren and BAT have confirmed that A Better Tomorrow will feature at the next grand prix in Bahrain on March 31. Mission Winnow branding will also return in Bahrain with Scuderia Ferrari.
Last month, McLaren announced a new global partnership with BAT. The team said the partnership would be “focused solely on BAT’s potentially reduced risk products” and had no direct relation to any tobacco products.
The partnership will be activated through a brand image campaign known as ‘A Better Tomorrow’, which – after the Australian Grand Prix – will be printed on the McLaren car, team wear and driver overalls.
Like PMI’s Mission Winnow initiative, the multi-year partnership is focused on highlighting BAT’s transformation in terms of science and technology.
Kingsley Wheaton, chief marketing officer at BAT, said: “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.”
Zak Brown, chief executive of McLaren, said at the partnership launch: “BAT is an outstanding corporation that has a long history in motorsport.
“Our partnership is one that is technology-based with their newer generation products. We don’t have any relationship with the tobacco side of the business.”
EU health authorities remain concerned that both Mission Winnow and A Better Tomorrow could be in breach of EU laws against tobacco advertising.
Anca Paduraru, spokesperson for health and food safety at the EU, told SportBusiness Sponsorship that both campaigns require “further close examination.”