Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

British American Tobacco and Formula One motor racing

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 08 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:104
  1. Joshua Carlyle, independent consultant1,
  2. Jeff Collin, lecturer2,
  3. Monique E Muggli, researcher3,
  4. Richard D Hurt, director4 (
  1. 1 Minneapolis MN 55409, USA
  2. 2 Centre on Global Change and Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  3. 3 Nicotine Research Program, Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN 55905, USA
  4. 4 Nicotine Dependence Center, Mayo Clinic
  1. Correspondence to: R D Hurt
  • Accepted 19 May 2004

Internal documents show that British American Tobacco's racing team has been successful in promoting the company's products, especially in emerging countries. Tougher worldwide action is needed to counter the tobacco industry's influence in Formula One


Sponsorship of sport has become central to the marketing operations of transnational tobacco companies as more direct forms of tobacco advertising have been curtailed by regulation.14 Tobacco sponsorship of motor sports remains an efficient way to reach boys2 and young men.3 The influence of tobacco companies has contributed to races increasingly being held in emerging markets throughout Asia that have minimal regulation or negotiated exemptions; races in more regulated countries such as Austria, Belgium, and Canada have been threatened or withdrawn.w1-3 In 1999, a new development emerged, when British American Tobacco (BAT) established its own Formula One racing team, British American Racing. Sponsorship of Formula One motor racing by tobacco companies is thus a powerful challenge to public health legislation aimed at reducing smoking.5

British American Racing

Unlike the tobacco sponsors of other Formula One racing teams, BAT is the majority shareholder in the British American Racing company.6 To ensure that its association with Reynard Racing Cars would not interfere with brand communication and consumer profits,w4 BAT was determined to name the team British American Racing rather than Reynard,w5 and the logo—a speeding tobacco leaf—was developed to mirror that of BAT.w6 (Formula One teams are typically known by the car makers; Marlboro may sponsor Ferrari, but the team is known by the name Ferrari.)

Benefits of sponsorship for BAT

Although British American Racing has not produced a competitive car until this year,7 newly produced documents suggest that BAT was content with the effect of the sponsorship on the fortunes of its key brands, specifically among adult smokers under 30.w7 w8 …

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