Following is a proposal of sorts…
I propose that the Formula 1 Braun GP team displays a standard No Smoking sign on the front nose cone of Jenson Buttons car. By displaying this small round sticker, that measures just 90mm in diameter, in the same place that typically displays the marque or badge of the team would guarantee attention and be a progressive and provocative statement of change.
Why the Braun GP team?
In modern Formula 1, ethics, responsibility, and a commitment to a better future seam to be second place behind winning at all costs. Spying, cheating, copying, tricking, lying, cover ups, sex scandals and pit lane girls, all take poll position. Ross Brawn is one of a handful of people involved in F1 with integrity. His new team along with his recent partnership agreement with Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, signal the way forward. An opportunity to do something good with a sport that has a checkered and tarnished recent history.
Racing cars and cigarette advertising seam to go hand in hand. The 2008 Grand Prix season was the first time in its history that tobacco logos where absent from car liveries. The absent of these logos is a first step, but over the years watching Damon Hill, Allan Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Mika Häkkinen, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, all world champions, driving cars dressed as cigaret packets, a stronger more visible stance is required. Now its time to promote and endorse non smoking.
Using an F1 cars livery to address a public issue is not new in F1. In 2007 Honda, the team that morphed into Brawn GP, displayed a giant world map that covered every inch of the car and raced for the green agenda with the slogan ‘Earth Car’. A precedent has been set, many believe green issues where contradictory to F1, but using advertising space to raise awareness for a good cause must be a positive thing. A progression to Oliviero Toscani advertising campaigns for Benetton that drew attention to global issues of race, AIDS, war, genocide and the death penalty. And in football charitable promotions on teams shirts; FC Barcelona and UNICEF, Aston Villa and Acorns Children’s Hospice.
The simple application of a No Smoking sticker would be a tangible and efficient way of readdressing the balance of a sport polluted by the involvement and endorsement of tobacco companies, a badge of progress, a sign of commitment. A small humble gesture that represents something bigger, like the wearing a red poppy on Remembrance Sunday or wearing an aids awareness Red Ribbon. A grain of sand in an oyster.
History of Formula One & Tobacco Advertising
Ever since the first appearance of the Red, Gold and White colors of the Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand sponsorship livery in 1968, teams, drivers and circuits of Formula One (F1) have become heavily dependent on the financial backing of their sponsors and for many decades the tobacco industry played the major role in sponsoring the sport. In 1976, Germany began the trend in outlawing tobacco sponsorships in motor races, then it was followed by United Kingdom in 1984, starting with major races and the rest in later years and in 1992 in France. As anti-smoking legislation began to tighten in many parts of the world F1 became an even more important opportunity for cigarette brand promotion. The negotiating skills of the F1 leadership (especially Bernie Ecclestone) were such that in many jurisdictions F1 achieved some exemptions from the rules. However there is now a blanket ban on advertising in Europe, and the cars are not allowed to show any links with the tobacco companies and increasingly, the teams are breaking their dependence on tobacco sponsorship. In 2000, WilliamsF1became the first major team to run without tobacco sponsorship, and McLaren have now replaced the West brand and no longer have any tobacco sponsors. Renault ended the deal with Mild Seven after the 2006 season. Ferrari on the other hand renewed their arrangements with Philip Morris in 2005 .
At the 2007 Bahrain, Monaco and Chinese Grands Prix, Altria Group's Marlboro brand was prominently on display on the Ferrari cars of Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen, on their jumpsuits and also those of the pit crew. Ferrari was the only team that was still promoting a cigarette brand in the 2007 Formula One season. Since the start of the 2008 season, Ferrari has no longer carried Marlboro logos at any races, even those at which tobacco advertising is allowed. It is therefore unlikely that any F1 car will ever directly advertise tobacco again. A similar ruse has been pulled by Marlboro and Verizon Wireless-sponsored cars by Penske Racing in the IRL and NASCAR (where Verizon is not allowed under NASCAR's wireless advertising ban).