PERSPECTIVE: Fact: Formula One can afford to kick the tobacco habit

By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 14 November 1997 12:00AM

So far as I can tell, the background to the Government’s extraordinary about-turn last week over tobacco and Formula One is based on two premises: one, 50,000 British jobs are at stake and, in a global business like motor racing, they could easily move abroad. Two, there are no other advertisers that could be found to replace the tobacco companies.

So far as I can tell, the background to the Government’s

extraordinary about-turn last week over tobacco and Formula One is based

on two premises: one, 50,000 British jobs are at stake and, in a global

business like motor racing, they could easily move abroad. Two, there

are no other advertisers that could be found to replace the tobacco

companies.



I know nothing about motor racing, but I do know something about

advertising.



It seems there is a lie at the heart of the affair that needs to be

nailed - that there ain’t no life beyond tobacco money, something the

poster industry knows to be untrue. As anybody who works in advertising

also knows, it is increasingly a global game too, and it’s rather

surprising that Labour didn’t ask any of its good friends at BMP DDB for

their views.



It’s therefore difficult to believe that the clever people behind motor

racing are not capable of persuading the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi,

Procter & Gamble, BT, Citibank or Unilever to join in. If that’s too

ambitious, they should just concentrate on a few global industries such

as leisurewear, telecommunications, computers and banking. In the jargon

of sponsorship, these are ’tomorrow’s’ industries so they should grab a

piece of the action to associate themselves with a ’tomorrow’ sport like

motor racing.



After all, it’s not as if global sport has no pulling power. Look no

further than the sort of multinationals that sponsor the World Cup and

the Olympics - Budweiser, Canon, Coca-Cola, Fuji Film, Gillette, JVC,

MasterCard, McDonald’s, General Motors, Philips and Mars - global

advertisers every one of them. And motor racing happens every year, not

one in four!


Beyond that, several other arguments seem to be in force. One is that

only tobacco companies and fools (ie those who are easily parted from

their money) are prepared to pay the huge sums involved in Formula

One.



Because they have nowhere else to go, it is said that Formula One can

squeeze 50 per cent more out of a tobacco sponsor and price others out

of the market.



But I digress. The official reason sponsorship costs so much is that TV

coverage brings with it huge global audiences. Here again the arguments

are false. Apart from the fact that most of this ’tobacco premium’ seems

to go into paying Damon Hill pounds 15 million a year, it takes no

account of digital and ’virtual’ TV advertising technology, the effect

of which is to reduce associated media costs by breaking the global

market down into smaller pieces. The result? Audience wastage is

eliminated and national advertisers can join in.



One suspects that last week’s decision has caused no end of excitement

at the tobacco manufacturers. If they can prove 100,000 jobs will be

lost from the ban on conventional tobacco advertising, they’re in with a

shout.



Except that this is difficult to prove because, as we all know, tobacco

advertising doesn’t affect consumption.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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