Ferrari has just announced that its longtime partnership with Shell will continue. It is a relationship that dates back to 1996, although Ferrari likes to say that it all started back in the 1920s, although such commercial relationships didn’t really exist at that time. Shell did provide products to Ferrari from 1951 to 1973 but then Agip took over for 21 years, while Shell went off to become a very successful sponsor with McLaren, during its glory years in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Ferrari and Shell say that the renewed relationship will “focus on sustainability and technology transfer, from track to road”.
“We are delighted that our collaboration is now set to go on even longer,” said Mattia Binotto. “We share many common values, not least excellence, passion for racing and teamwork, which have made this partnership unique in the history of motor sport. As our Innovation Partner we will continue to work with Shell on the transfer of racing technology to mobility as well as the ambitious challenges that lie ahead in particular the aim of Formula 1 to reach a net-zero emissions level by 2030.”
Shell, which pays rather more than the signage suggests, buying such things as proximity to the Ferrari logo, is keen to keep the relationship going.
“Our partnership with Ferrari has bred truly remarkable innovations – innovations that Shell regularly relies upon when developing new fuels and lubricants for our customers,” says István Kapitány, Shell’s Global Executive Vice President for Mobility. “We’re now entering a very exciting time in our history together as we leverage this partnership to not only strive for success on the track, but also to develop cleaner fuels and lubricants for our customers.”
One of the many side-effects of this partnership was that at one point – about 20 years ago – Shell overtook Mattel to become the world’s biggest manufacturer of toy cars, having sold an astonishing 25 million Ferrari models through its 48,000 forecourt shops around the world. I am sure that these promotions are still successful but whether they are still at that level, I don’t know.
The Shell announcement, however, leads to a slightly-related question: Has Ferrari renewed yet with Philip Morris? This is a relationship that began in the 1970s and led in 1997 to Marlboro becoming the team’s title partner. The last Ferrari-Philip Morris renewal was a three year deal covering 2019-2021, which was announced early in 2018. This followed a prior three-year deal that covered 2016-2018 although this was a reduction from the usual five-year deals that existed previously, the last being from 2011-2015.
Usually such contracts are finalised a long way in advance and, following this logic, a new 2022-2024 deal ought to have been announced by now. It is possible that there is a deal in place and that they haven’t announced it, to avoid the usual controversy over tobacco sponsorship, but the recent Ferrari tests at Fiorano, using a 2018 car, did not feature the names of sponsors who have since departed the team: thus there was no sign of Hublot, Mahle, Singha and Lenovo, all of which were on the car in that era. The main point of interest (for me) was that the cars ran without any branding from Mission Winnow, which first appeared in 2018. This livery was seen at various races in 2019 but was not used in 2020 races, although the cars were seen sporting them at the launch and during the pre-season testing.
I am not saying that Philip Morris is giving up on its Ferrari sponsorship -it’s really too good a deal to give up – but it is odd that we have heard nothing as yet. The tobacco firm recently got a new CEO when Jacek Olczak, the COO, moved up. The transition was not expected to change anything as the company continues to move to what it calls “reduced-risk products”. Olczak says that he and André Calantzopoulos, the former CEO who has moved up to become chairman, have worked together on this strategy for years, with the vision being to leave cigarettes behind and concentrate on the new products. The primary one is the IQOS heated tobacco system and the firm has done a few minor sponsorships with it, such as the IQOS World exhibition during Milan Design Week in 2019.
The question of whether IQOS should be allowed to advertise came up during the pandemic, when the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS in the US, which caused the World Health Organisation (WHO) to object, arguing that it was still a tobacco product and all WHO members had agreed, years ago, not to allow any kind of tobacco marketing. That was, of cours, at a time when former president Donald Trump was making plans for the US to quit WHO. This was one of the first things that President Joe Biden reversed when he took office and one assumes that in the fullness of time the FDA will change its mind.
Let’s see if we hear anything from Philip Morris, but a sponsorship renewal seems overdue…