Global tobacco giant Philip Morris International has confirmed that Mission Winnow, its new smoke-free brand-image campaign, will sit out its third Grand Prix of the season in France this weekend.
The move comes amid unconfirmed reports that Mission Winnow could be dropped from both the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team and the Ducati MotoGP team for the rest of 2019.
According to a report from Motorsport.com, PMI is considering removing the controversial Mission Winnow brand from the official team names, vehicle liveries, and driver and rider overalls at Scuderia Ferrari and Ducati MotoGP respectively.
Simon Dowding, head of market communications at PMI, told Motorsport.com: “As announced at the start of the season, we may on a race-by-race basis provide opportunities to our partners to communicate messages in place of Mission Winnow.
“As was the case in Australia and Canada, Scuderia Ferrari will again celebrate their 90th anniversary on the livery and team uniforms at the Formula One GP in France this weekend.
“As a matter of practice, we do not comment on rumours and speculation.”
Sources told Motorsport.com that increased external scrutiny of Mission Winnow has led PMI to ditch its F1 and MotoGP partnerships for a longer period than first anticipated – and possibly for all races this season.
Last month, PMI dropped Mission Winnow from the Ducati MotoGP team at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans. Sources have also claimed that PMI will do the same for the Netherlands Grand Prix on 30 June.
Earlier this year, 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 Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
PMI denies that Mission Winnow is a product-related campaign.