Williams seal sponsors' deal to kick tobacco habit

LONDON: The Williams team, heavily sponsored by tobacco in the past, claimed a Formula One first yesterday with a 'landmark' anti-smoking sponsorship. 

The BMW-powered team said the GlaxoSmithkline brand NiQuitin CQ, a range of products to help people give up smoking, would be displayed prominently on their cars from this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix in Italy. 

Williams marketing director Jim Wright said the sponsorship deal was initially for one year, with an option to extend, and involved a sizeable investment. 

“It’s a landmark deal for a Formula One team and a first for motorsport,” he said. “We’re helping motor racing kick the habit. This deal confirms that there is a future for Formula One after tobacco sponsorship,” said team boss Frank Williams. 

Motor racing’s ruling body (FIA) is planning legal action to try to overturn a European Union law banning tobacco advertising from mid-2005 and has warned that the continent risks losing grand prix races as a result of the legislation. 

Tobacco sponsorship has long been a part of the glamour world of Formula One. Five of the 10 Formula One teams – champions Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BAR and Jordan – are heavily backed by cigarette brands. 

Formula One’s governing body has already cancelled this year’s Belgian Grand Prix as a result of local anti-tobacco legislation and announced Austria will be struck off after 2003. It wants an agreed global ban from October 2006 in order to take account of existing sponsorship deals in the sport. 

Williams, sponsored by the Rothmans and Winfield brands in the 1990s, renounced tobacco sponsorship three years ago when they teamed up with carmaker BMW. “We want to make giving up smoking...more aspirational,” said GlaxoSmithkline vice-president of consumer healthcare Simon Paulsford. Their branding will be on the car in positions vacated by Worldcom, Veltins and Reuters. – Reuters 

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