Red is the color of the Italian national team. Red are Ferrati and Ducati, and both havae shared their principal sponsor, Philip Morris, for years. But times change, cigarette brands no longer exist on motorcycles and cars, and PMI has been focusing on the Mission Winnow project for the past year.
The term can sort of throw you off. You can read it as "win now", but it actually has several meanings, like blowing the chaff from grain or even removing people or things from a group until the best are left. Keep the positive, get rid of the negative. A campaign that aims to renew the image of a company that, like it or not, has always been linked to cigarettes and to the tobacco industry.
We talked about it with Riccardo Parino, Vice President of Philip Morris Global Event Partnership. We started from sports and from the 2019 budget, with Ducati winning the World Championship for the third time, behind Marquez.
"Our relationship with Ducati is very collaborative," Parino explained. "We have to be an element of support for important decisions at certain times, but we don't want to get into the details. The year started with the expectation of aiming for the title. It was a season in which Ducati didn't so much understand its limits but what its ability towards making progress with other riders and other teams was."
What do you expect from this upcoming season?
2020 will be a year of transformation. We also wanted to put more things together this year, but now the important thing is to understand what the plans for the future are. I believe what's important is not just winning, but taking part until the last race, and I think this can be achieved."
Will the Mission Winnow brand remain on the Desmosedici's fairing? We saw it disappear and reappear this year.
"We launched the campaign a year ago in Formula 1 and then with Ducati in the MotoGP. It's an important challenge and not something trivial for us. Returning to motor sports is a campaign that has nothing to do with our products. It's a message. We were aware that doubts and controversies would arise, so when there was a risk of speculation, we pulled out . We don't want controversies with governments and institutions."
Do you think the public understood what you wanted to express?
"Our message is not easy, starting with the name. We wanted an uncommon slogan, like our campaign. We want to be known as a company that wants to progress in a scientific way. We were aware that it would take time. The MotoGP has an audience of 300 million people, and the public welcomed our message when they realized that it was not a commercial campaign. We saw it on our website and on our social networks. People were curious about our campaign."
Is this the right time for this message?
"For a tobacco company, it was an epochal step. As a tobacco company, we're always categorized, but we want to open a dialogue with people and change the image they have of us. We wanted to try, attracting other people to this world."
"We'd like to change this sport, in the sense of making it become a platform for companies to discuss different topics, from which to launch different messages. We want to do it next year, building a sort of 'scientific garage', where various figures will intervene, bringing their own experiences."
What is the key point?
"Information. The most important categories must be defended, like minors, and all others must be informed about the consequences of their decisions. So, we need to introduce educational aspects. This is not just sports or entertainment, but a movement of people who work in various fields to improve themselves."
Phillip Morris's contract with Ducati will expire at the end of 2021. What are its plans for the future?
"I confirm that this is a three-year project, and I can add that the MotoGP is a world in which it's still worth remaining."