Glyndebourne sponsorship deal with BAT

Thursday 05 June 2008
The organisers of the Glyndebourne opera festival have been forced to distance themselves from British American Tobacco, sponsor of their production of Carmen and the world’s second largest cigarette producer, after an investigation by local Trading Standards Officers branded aspects of the partnership illegal. The decision came just two days before the Government launched a wide reaching consultation on tobacco marketing including removing cigarette displays and branding on packs.

Sponsorship deals where “the purpose or the effect” is to promote a tobacco product in the UK are illegal under the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002. In sponsoring a production of Carmen, the multinational giant used its corporate “BAT” logo rather than any one of its cigarette brands and so gave the impression of remaining just within the letter of the law. However, an investigation by leading tobacco campaigner Lord Faulkner of Worcester discovered that Glyndebourne were providing a link from their website to BAT’s and so to product promotions. Trading Standards Officers were alerted and ordered that the link be broken. On learning of the result Lord Faulkner said:

“I was astonished to discover that the law permits BAT as a company to sponsor productions such as this, provided that they do not directly promote their tobacco products. I applaud the decision of the East Sussex Trading Standards officer to order the removal of the link between Glyndebourne’s website and BAT’s, but it is clear that this is a loophole which needs to be closed. It can never be acceptable for tobacco products to be promoted on the back of sporting or artistic events.”

Lord Faulkner had been alerted by Dr John Warren an opera loving retired chest physician and supporter of the health campaigning charity ASH. Dr Warren commented:

“I’ve been a chest doctor for 40 years and an opera enthusiast for even longer. I spent my entire adult life trying to limit the damage that these people have caused so when I received my tickets with tobacco branding on them I resolved on the spot to fight back.”

Carmen is the cautionary tale of a Spanish tobacco worker who beguiles the young and experienced Don Jose, leading him to reject his lover, mutiny against his superiors, turn to crime, madness and ultimately murder. Dr Warren added,

“BAT appears to have believed that sponsoring Carmen would present the company in a positive light while promoting its products at the same time. They were wrong on both counts.”