Netflix F1 show slammed over tobacco advertising
Netflix's well-liked Formula One series is giving tobacco monopolies a quick and efficient marketing tool to get around restrictions on their ability to advertise their products.
Drive to Survive, a Netflix original series that follows the drivers and crew behind the scenes of Formula One, just debuted its fifth season.
However, activists caution that in addition to increasing the popularity of the motor sport, the programme also advertises cigarette firms that support F1 teams in homes around the world, including in places where tobacco advertising is prohibited.
As of the fourth season of "Drive to Survive," a total of 1.1 billion minutes of film transmitted throughout the world contained tobacco-related content, according to a new analysis from Formula One industry watchdog Formula Money and tobacco industry watchdog STOP.
According to the study titled "Driving Addiction: F1, Netflix, and Cigarette Industry Advertising," the first minute of half of all episodes during that season had tobacco-related branding.
According to the report, the sponsors of Ferrari and McLaren, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI) have prominently featured in the series with lengthy plotlines focusing on the drivers of their respective teams.
Research indicates that PMI and BAT are reaching new audiences through the programme, including viewers of F1 races who might not otherwise tune in, it continued.
The analysis released on Wednesday indicated that "Drive to Survive" viewers were younger than average F1 audiences and that it may have greatly increased F1 race viewership in addition to the Netflix series.
The World Health Organisation estimates that tobacco use kills more than eight million people annually; a global treaty has called for an end to all tobacco advertising.
Moreover, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which oversees Formula One, has advised against tobacco industry sponsorship of the activity for the past 20 years.
Since then, tobacco corporations have stopped using F1 to promote their classic cigarette brands, while they have occasionally kept promoting more recent alternative goods like e-cigarettes.
What constitutes cigarette promotion is a grey issue for them, according to Alday.
When contacted by AFP, the FIA stated that it "remains resolutely opposed to cigarette advertising and continues to stand by its 2003 recommendations We are not able to intervene with the private commercial agreements between the teams and their sponsors or broadcast agreements.”
Formula One asserted that "all advertising is in conformity with existing laws" in the meantime.
According to the research released on Wednesday, PMI and BAT would likely spend $40 million on F1 advertising in 2022.
The most noticeable brands on the McLaren livery "throughout the season" were BAT's Vuse e-cigarette and Velo nicotine pouch products, according to the report.
Despite Mexico's tight advertising regulations, it was noted that branding for these products appeared at 13 out of 22 events, including the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, PMI, one of the founding and longest-running F1 sponsors, dramatically reduced their funding in 2017.
The research discovered that although it remained a Ferrari partner, its emblems and graphics were no longer visible on the team's cars.
According to a report published on Wednesday, the cigarette company, which has invested over $2.4 billion in advertising since it first entered the sport in 1971, has continued to benefit from the Netflix series' historical content for branding purposes.
One minute of historical video featured five different cigarette brands, including PMI's Marlboro, according to report co-author Caroline Reid of Formula Money.