US tobacco giant Philip Morris International has confirmed that ‘Mission Winnow’ will continue as title partner of the Ferrari F1 team for 2019, despite being removed for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
In a statement on the Mission Winnow Twitter page, PMI wrote: “The changes are currently planned only for the race in Australia. We are excited to remain title partner of Scuderia Ferrari for the 2019 season.”
Earlier this month, PMI dropped the Mission Winnow branding from the Scuderia Ferrari team name, and the Mission Winnow logo was airbrushed from the official Formula One website.
PMI launched its Mission Winnow-Ferrari partnership at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2018, and the campaign was visible at the final four races of last season.
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.
However, critics claim 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.
Responding to the allegations, the company added in its Twitter statement: “PMI has not received any formal complaints regarding Mission Winnow. We have been very clear – Mission Winnow is not about selling or advertising any tobacco or e-cigarette products & we believe it complies with the relevant laws that apply to our activities around the world.”
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.