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FIA chief backs WHO moves against tobacco company sponsorship

The World Health Organisation has thrown the spotlight on tobacco company partnerships with motorsports teams in a statement urging governments to enforce bans on tobacco advertising at sporting events.

In a posting on the WHO website, the organisation made its position clear, urging “all sporting bodies, including Formula One and MotoGP, to adopt strong tobacco-free policies that ensure their events are smoke-free and their activities and participants, including race teams, are not sponsored by tobacco companies”.

In a further development, the statement has received the backing of FIA president Jean Todt.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Todt said he “completely supported” the WHO position.

In the statement, the WHO referenced the global partnership between British American Tobacco (BAT) and Formula One team McLaren, using the logo ‘A Better Tomorrow’.

“In making this announcement, BAT indicated that the multi-year partnership will provide a global platform to drive greater resonance of certain products, including glo, a heated tobacco product,” the WHO said.

“This statement suggests that the company’s intent is to promote tobacco use.”

In the case of Philip Morris International, the WHO highlighted the ‘Mission Winnow’ logo carried on Scuderia Ferrari cars and Ducati MotoGP motorbikes that “previously carried branding for the cigarette brand Marlboro”.

“PMI has also registered the Mission Winnow logo as a trademark, including for use with respect to tobacco products. Ducati carried this branding at a recent MotoGP,” the WHO said.

The WHO concluded that governments could issue penalties against those responsible for such tobacco-related advertising and take preventative action, such as preventing screening of events that violate domestic laws.

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The partnership is understood to be a three-season deal, from 2019-20 to 2021-22, and builds on AXA’s existing Global Partner agreement with Liverpool.

The deal is the largest ever sponsorship investment in UK women’s sport and comes less than a year after the league went fully professional in September 2018.

Under the five-year global deal, Oppo will become the first Official Smartphone Partner of The Championships, Wimbledon, as the event is officially known.

US sportswear brand Nike is paying about $7.5m (€6.7m) per year to sponsor China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL), according to industry sources.