The ‘return’ of JPS: No smoke without fire?

The news that Lotus Renault GP’s use of a black and gold livery has caught the attention of anti-tobacco groups has not come as a big surprise.

There is no evidence that the team is doing anything underhand, or is benefiting commercially by subliminally promoting cigarettes. However, the decision to go black and gold could well prove to be a little misguided.

I am indebted to my fellow blogger Joe Saward, who today posted photographic evidence from Austria that JPS is now using point of sale advertising material with a motor racing theme. It features a cigarette packet with wheels, on a grid, and the phrase ‘The Legend.’ A happy co-incidence? Blatant opportunism by Imperial Tobacco? Or something else?

When Tony Fernandes first announced that Lotus Racing was returning to F1 I am sure that most non-smokers – like myself – naively assumed that the JPS brand was either dead and buried, or only available in a few far flung markets.

After Lotus Renault GP revealed that it was going to run in black and gold Fernandes was surprisingly quick to capitulate and announce that his team would stay in green and yellow. He claimed that he hadn’t realised that JPS was still on sale, and anticipated trouble.

“With many people complaining that I may be promoting a cigarette brand that’s still in existence, I think we may be wise to go back to green,” he told me in December. “We’re not silly and emotional and childish about it. We always wanted to be the green team. We thought for a change we’d give black and gold a run, whether it’s co-incidence or they copied, they came out with the same concept.”

Meanwhile Lotus Renault GP pushed ahead with its plans.

A little research reveals that the JPS brand is far from moribund or a relic of the 70s and 80s. In fact it is hugely important to Imperial Tobacco, whose portfolio of brands includes recent former F1 sponsors West and Gauloises Blondes.

Indeed corporate presentations from late last year detail that since 2006 sales of JPS have risen by 58%, or 116% in Germany alone. JPS has become Imperial’s biggest brand in Germany, with a 9.3% market share.

As a demonstration of how important the JPS brand is to Imperial in Europe and Australasia, here are some examples of marketing developments in Germany that the company quotes:

Players Edition: September 2009

Soft Pack: November 2009

Ice: July 2010

Design Yellow and Black: July 2010

The timing of that latter development is intriguing, to say the least. In addition, Imperial trumpets the following JPS data:

Global volumes continue to grow more than 10% p.a.

Germany: 9.9% spot share in August

UK: 5.9% spot share in July

– JPS Silver at 5.2%

– biggest King Size smooth brand in the economy sector

Australia: share up to 2.6% in August; growing rapidly

New Zealand: rapid progress

Summing up, chief executive Alison Cooper (no relation!) said: JPS has delivered another outstanding performance this year with the UK, Germany, Australia, Portugal and New Zealand all contributing. Since 2006, the brand’s cigarette volumes have grown at a compound rate of 12 per cent whilst in Germany, where 44 per cent of the brand’s volumes are sold, compound annual growth of 21 per cent has been achieved since 2006, it’s a great success story of a quality brand at an affordable price.”

And Mike Ashton, head of performance planning, said: “There’s more to come from JPS and we’re very confident that the brand can maintain its growth rate. JPS has heritage and yet it maintains a clear, uncluttered style which is very much appreciated by value consumers.”

The bottom line is that Imperial is giving JPS a massive push, and thus Lotus Renault GP’s decision to revive perhaps the most iconic livery in motor sport history must have come as a welcome bonus.

It would be naive to suggest that public won’t in some way connect the current car with F1 glories of the past, even without JPS logos appearing. After all Philip Morris continues to pump millions into Ferrari on the basis that it is still perceived as a Marlboro car.

As I said there is no evidence that the Lotus Renault GP livery has any sinister connotations – although another co-incidence is that Imperial has a major presence in Poland and Russia, home countries of the drivers.

But given that Imperial is now using motor racing in its promotion materials, the team may be well advised to review the situation.

The irony is that Dany Bahar has criticised Tony Fernandes for promoting Lotus, a brand with which he has no formal connection – and Lotus Renault GP is in danger of doing something similar…

15 Comments

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15 responses to “The ‘return’ of JPS: No smoke without fire?

  1. BasCB

    Here’s a picture link of a poster figuering that Yellow and Black edition from Germany – http://www.zigsam.at/l2/JPS-23DE2010.htm (the site it’s on seems to be a collector of all cigarettes packages designs in the world, well better to collect than to smoke, eh!)

    • Looks like a 2010 Renault!

      • BasCB

        And we thought Genii and Renault were just doing a back to the glory days livery! Turns out they were working on something bigger.

        My brother remembers seeing it at the time (probably on a train station in Germany) and he did have the feeling of recognizing it at the time.

        Who knows, it might even be intentional.

  2. Jodum5

    I have no problem with the car’s livery – it’s quite nice actually. I have a problem with Renault giving free advertising (worth many tens of millions) to a company, because they aren’t clever enough to come up with a decent livery. I also have a problem with Renault playing along with Group Lotus’ apparant attempt to use said livery to hurt Team Lotus – it’s quite sad actually.

    What would’ve been great (from my POV as a social smoker) would be if John Player/Imperial Tobacco was the title sponsor to Renault and reverted to the black and gold minus any branding. I’d get a nice laugh out of that.

  3. verry cool black and gold livery for Lotus Renault

  4. Stone the crows

    Blatant opportunism by a Tobbacco company? Nay, say it ain’t so. This is certainly the irony of ironies that the blatant opportunism of the Chapman family via Tony Bahar is being trumped by a corporation that may benefit from their choice livery without paying for it. If they thought Tony Ferandes was a pain, wait till the anti-smoking nannies go after them. I can see the Chapman’s getting religion a few months into the season and deciding they’ll go with Green and Yellow after all-for purely historical traditional reasons, of course. Then will follow a lawsuit in which they state their exclusive rights to the colors green and yellow.

    In reality though, if Ferrari can run around for years with a bar code on their cars and uniforms then I don’t see why the JPS livery, albiet without the JPS branding would be disallowed.

  5. Williams4Ever

    For all the talk about subliminal marketing maybe someone needs to drop Schumi from the grid or FIA has to retroactively take back one of his driver’s titles.
    Who knows every time commentators, press, forums refer to him as Seven times champion, somebody out there must be going out to smoke their Mild Sevens 😀

  6. CTP

    Fernandes totally played Bahar on the black-and-gold livery, and Bahar, like the sucker he is, fell hook, line and sinker.
    This is a lose-lose situation for Renault now: even if they lawyer their way out of this “tobacco” situation, everyone’s still going to think it anyway, and think they’re schmucks for doing so. The only way I see “win” coming into this for Renault is if JPS steps up and does a (tongue-in-cheek) not-sponsor deal like Marlboro at Ferrari.

  7. “The irony is that Dany Bahar has criticised Tony Fernandes for promoting Lotus, a brand with which he has no formal connection – and Lotus Renault GP is in danger of doing something similar…”

    Touché!

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