Eurosport - Thu, 29 Apr 11:32:00 2010
Doctors have urged governments to launch an enquiry into alleged 'subliminal' tobacco advertising on Ferrari Formula One cars, according to The Times.
It is claimed the red, white and black bar code on Ferrari cars and overalls is intended to remind viewers of Marlboro cigarettes branding.
EU law bans tobacco sponsorship at sporting events, and the first European round of the 2010 F1 season takes place in Spain next weekend.
A spokesman for the European Public Health Commissioner he suspected subliminal marketing by Marlboro, who have a $1 billion (£650m) partnership with Ferrari, and asked the British and Spanish governments to investigate.
Subliminal advertising is a technique whereby consumers are reminded of a product without actually seeing it, and an expert said the Ferrari bar code had come increasingly to resemble a Marlboro packet.
John Britton, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group, told The Times: “The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding.”
Gerard Hastings, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, added: “I think this is advertising. Why a bar code? What is their explanation?”
A spokesperson for the BBC, which broadcasts Formula One, said: “We are confident that Formula One, and as a result our coverage of Formula One, is fully compliant with regulations.”
A Ferrari spokesman said: “The bar code is part of the livery of the car, it is not part of a subliminal advertising campaign.”
Philip Morris, whose financial backing of Ferrari is in place until the end of next season, said: “We are confident that our relationship with Ferrari does not violate the UK 2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act.
"The Formula One Grand Prix in the UK does not involve any race cars, team apparel, equipment or track signage carrying tobacco product branding. The same is true for all other Formula One races across the world.”