McLaren's Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren have found another gear. Image Credit: AFP

London: British American Tobacco Plc is expanding their sponsorship of the McLaren Formula One team next year to boost marketing of cigarette alternatives as controversy rages over whether tobacco branding should be let back into the auto racing circuit after a decade-long hiatus.

McLaren will provide more promotional spots on their cars next year and BAT will also be a partner for the team as it returns to full-time IndyCar competitions in the US, the company said on Thursday.

Restrictions in several Formula One racing locations forced McLaren to strip BAT labels for Vype and Vuse vaping products from the cars this season. In March, the World Health Organisation urged member countries to ban tobacco advertising when hosting or broadcasting Formula One events.

BAT left Formula One more than a decade ago when the European Union began restricting tobacco advertising in sporting events.

Philip Morris International Inc. kept sponsoring Scuderia Ferrari but took it’s brand logos off the vehicles. Last year, Ferrari cars and uniforms at some races started to display the slogan “Mission Winnow.” Philip Morris says it created the programme to highlight new initiatives and spur discussion rather than promoting specific products, but it was barred from some Formula One races.

BAT said it’s introducing the Vuse vaping brand outside the US this weekend at the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. Next year, McLaren cars will also display the brand of its Velo oral-nicotine products.

This year, in places that prohibit tobacco marketing, McLaren cars shifted ads to other brands such as convenience-store operator 7-Eleven and duty-free retailer Dufry. In China, instead of advertising products, BAT changed the spots to include its slogan “A Better Tomorrow.”