Tobacco giant Philip Morris International has dropped its Mission Winnow branding from the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team name, and the logo has been censored at Formula1.com.
Neither PMI or Ferrari announced the move publicly, but the name change was confirmed yesterday when the FIA published an updated entry list for the 2019 season.
In previous lists, the team name was entered as ‘Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’, but in the latest list it has been cut to ‘Scuderia Ferrari’.
An official F1 photo of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc covering the Mission Winnow logo has also been published at F1.com since the name change.
Media reports indicate that Leclerc was told by F1 to cover the branding, as its policy is now to censor Mission Winnow. The Mission Winnow logo has also been airbrushed from Leclerc’s collar.
Mission Winnow was conceived as an attempt to raise awareness of PMI’s embrace of a smoke-free future, and its transformation in terms of science and technology. It was not intended to promote any tobacco-related product.
But critics say the campaign is a deliberate attempt to get around laws against tobacco advertising, and an attempt to hint at PMI’s flagship brand and former Ferrari sponsor Marlboro.
Last month, health authorities in Australia launched several investigations into the legality of the campaign, and, one week later, EU officials revealed they are also monitoring the campaign.
Anca Paduraru, spokesperson for health, food safety and energy union projects at the European Union, told SportBusiness Sponsorship: “The Tobacco Advertising Directive (2003/33/EC) has an EU-wide ban on cross-border tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the media.
“The ban covers advertising and sponsorship with the aim of, or with the direct or indirect effect of, promoting a tobacco product.”
Paduraru also said the ban extends to electronic cigarettes, such as those developed by PMI at The Cube, its new innovation and technology hub in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
PMI denies the accusation that Mission Winnow is a product-related campaign, and has reiterated that its branding is legal in all Formula 1 territories.
As Riccardo Parino, PMI’s vice-president of global event partnerships, told SportBusiness Sponsorship: “Our basic principle is that these messages are not related to any tobacco brand or products, and that it is a message about the company.”
The Mission Winnow-Ferrari partnership launched at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2018 and featured at the last four races of last season.
Australian health officials who are investigating the campaign are aiming to reach a verdict before the 2019 season opener in Melbourne on March 17.