SBD/January 19, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Renault F1 Team's Paint Scheme Could Run Afoul Of Canada's Tobacco Act

Black and gold paint scheme resembles John Player Special cigarette packaging
The Renault F1 team's new "historic black and gold paint scheme may cause some headaches" for the team during the June 12 Canadian Grand Prix, as having its car "look even remotely similar to a cigarette pack likely violates Canada's ban on tobacco advertising," according to Jeff Pappone of the GLOBE & MAIL. The ban would be in effect even though the car "has no connection to the former sponsorship" by John Player Special cigarettes. A Health Canada spokesperson said the organization's tobacco inspectors "would need to fully review to assess whether a violation of the Tobacco Act has occurred" should a car painted to resemble a cigarette pack make an appearance in the race. The spokesperson added, "Tobacco product sponsorship is prohibited entirely and tobacco advertising is severely restricted." Pappone noted Imperial Tobacco Canada, which manufactures and distributes the John Player Special brand in the country, "cannot even display the black and gold colours on its website where it describes the brand." Pappone: "It appears that it could easily be argued that Renault's plans to display the same black colour and gold pin-striping that formerly promoted the JPS brand and associate it with the glitz and glamour of F1 would contravene the legislation" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18).

TAKE IT TO THE COURTS: In London, Tom Cary reports Group Lotus is "attempting to avoid a costly legal battle by seeking a summary judgement next week in its dispute with Team Lotus over the use of the car maker's name in Formula One." The Group Lotus car company "caused widespread confusion before Christmas" by announcing a seven-year, US$160M sponsorship deal with the Renault F1 team "when there was already a Lotus team on the grid." It had been "expected that the legal row between Group Lotus and Team Lotus would not be in court until the early summer," but Group Lotus is "seeking a summary judgement on the main legal issues -- that its early termination of its licencing deal with Lotus Racing was a breach of contract and over whether Team Lotus is allowed to use the name in Formula 1 this year." The matter is "due to be heard in London" on Monday (London TELEGRAPH, 1/19).
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