Mission Winnow (MW) is a PMI campaign claiming to focus on “…innovation and technology to expedite change” through sponsorship of the Ferrari Formula One (F1) team, the Pramac MotoE team and the Ducati MotoGP team. Ducati launched its 2019 bikes at PMI’s Cube building, with PMI’s Miroslaw Zielinski and the MW logo designer, Fabio Novembre, presenting.
After the Australian Government launched an investigation into whether MW contravened tobacco advertising laws, Ferrari removed MW branding and McLaren removed BAT branding (A Better Tomorrow-ABT) for the Australian GP. At subsequent races, Ferrari displayed MW branding and BAT regularly promoted its various “Potentially reduced-risk” brands. In May, PMI was ordered by the French legal system to remove all MW branding for the upcoming French races, and was fined €10,000 as MW “…is clearly a (tobacco) sponsorship or patronage operation prohibited by law.”
Unlike ABT, MW has a social media presence across several platforms. MW promoted competitions including track day experiences and VIP tickets to races, sponsored MotoGP video segments, hosted a “harm-reduction through innovation” panel with Dr Peter Harper from the London Oncology Clinic as a panellist, partnered with artists, sports players, actors, and entrepreneurs to discuss “winnowing” and raised funds for NGOs.
MW regularly responds to comments on social media, which provides insight into PMI’s real position on transitioning towards a ‘smoke-free’ future. Comments from posters include: “Wouldn’t a constant evolution/improvement be to stop producing cancer causing products?” with MW replying “…you’re right and that’s actually a goal for us. Yet, that’s not MW’s purpose as it is not about any products or brands.” Another commenter asked “Why don’t you just stop making cigarettes?” with MW responding “That’s actually the plan. We’ve changed, and one of the aspects in that change is our will to do just that…We want to share the transformation within our company.” MW was asked when PMI will announce and end-date to phase out the sale of cigarettes, with MW responding by saying “Our initiative has no ‘ultimate’ or ‘end’ goal…we’ve stated the true purpose of the initiative: to drive change by promoting the constant search for progress.”
PMI spends significant funding to promote the notion that it is changing, yet the company refuses to provide an end-date for the sale of combustible products to achieve its goal of going ‘smoke-free’. MW is used as an avenue to continue promoting PMI’s association with global motorsport whilst also subliminally promoting its leading cigarette brand through colour and design aspects that closely resemble Marlboro. PMI also uses MW to expand into areas such as harm reduction and Corporate Social Responsibility to enhance its perception of legitimacy.
Jean Todt, President of global motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, stated in March “…tobacco advertising is forbidden… we completely support the WHO position…We are allied very closely with the WHO.” Despite evidence that MW and ABT are classified as forms of indirect tobacco advertising in several jurisdictions, the FIA and the owners of F1, Liberty Media, have done nothing to prevent these sponsorship deals from continuing. This emphasises the need for FCTC signatories to urgently enforce Article 13 guidelines to prevent the indirect promotion of tobacco brand names, colours, logos, designs, or the promotion of tobacco companies themselves.
John Baker is the Assistant News Editor of Tobacco Control and a PhD candidate at La Trobe University, Australia. He can be contacted at email@example.com.