Monday, May 21, 2012

Sponsorship and History

As some of you will know, I am a big fan of Formula 1. I have watched it from a very young age and grown up watching the cars change dramatically over the last 25 or so years.

I was watching the first few races this season, when I was struck by a question. You see, the Lotus cars this year (formerly Renault) have changed to a black and gold colour scheme. This clearly is a reference to their classic 70's colour scheme from when they dominated F1 for several years.

The only issue is though, the 70's car was called the John Player Special. A sponsorship that wouldn't be allowed now. So just how old and how subtle does sponsorship and branding have to be before it loses relevance?

I was born many years after the JPS car, yet I still know it by that name. So when that car appears in the same colours I inherently link it back to the old cigarette sponsored car. Even though it has no logos or other markings that resemble the brand.

A decade or so ago Ferrari were banned from using white and black barcodes on their car instead of the Marlboro logo in places where tobacco sponsorship was then banned. They were told it was still branding. Likewise Jordan putting Buzzing Hornets instead of Benson and Hedges.

Well isn't reviving the colours of a cigarette brand named car just the same?

Would such a sponsorship be illegal under the current rules? I would have thought so, but if Marlboro paid McLaren to go back to their red and white stripes, but with no mention of Marlboro anywhere, what would happen? Could McLaren argue it is their heritage colour and not a sponsor colour? That would have to be the justification from Lotus if challenged too, surely?

Then if we follow the argument logically, is Santa appearing in Red and White a case of advertising Coca Cola to children? The red and white colours are from Coke's historical advertising, and as an HFSS product that kind of branding and brand colour usage wouldn't be allowed.

Where and how do we draw an acceptable line I wonder? After how many years does sponsorship become heritage, and when does it lose relevance to the former sponsor?

1 comment:

richard said...

If I were formula one I'd steer well clear of colourways that are in any way redolent of cigarette sponsors of the past. But then it seems a 'sport' totally devoid of morality or ethics to me. Nice observation about banning father christmas from ads in children's airtime because of Coke associations.