For many years, before the ban on cigarette advertising here in the UK, a great number of dartboards were manufactured promoting tobacco products.

The Hamlet (or ‘Pizza’) Dartboard

Back in April 2016 I received an e-mail from Chris L. from Coventry. He wrote

I have recently acquired what appears to be a fairly rare and interesting dartboard but unfortunately darts collectibles is a subject I know next to nothing about. The dart board in question seems to be a piece of advertising merchandise, branded with the Hamlet cigars logo and comprising of a striking red and cream colourway…[see photo]…It also seems to have a date on the back (’15-7-91′) suggesting that it is perhaps about 25 years old.

I’ve searched the internet to find any evidence of similar items or for any information and have so far found nothing – which brings me to e-mailing you.

I found your website after searching darts collectibles and would like to ask if this is an item you happen to know anything about, or even if you know whether it has any value to it? I hope to hear from you soon and thank you for taking the time to read my query.

As you all probably know, I do not give valuations, mainly because I have so little time to deal with such enquiries that usually do not inform my research. However, in this case, I was interested to find out more.

I contacted Vince Bluck, Managing Director of NODOR International who confirmed that the dartboard was made by his company in 1991. He also told me that tobacco companies regularly used darts as a promotional tool throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s but that, obviously, legislation prevented this after 2003; the year of the tobacco advertising ban in the UK. The dartboard shown above, left, is another NODOR dartboard, this time advertising Marlboro cigarettes. 

A Marlboro advertising dartboard

The above article originally appeared in Dr. Darts’ Newsletter #74 (July 2016). As a result I received some excellent feedback from subscribers in the following month’s issue.  Phil W. (aka ‘The Postman’) wrote:

Hi Patrick, Really enjoyed the July edition of DDN…..cracking read.

The article about the tobacco dartboards reminded me of playing in the Steve Mallen Memorial Pairs which ran from the early 1990s until 2015. It was a charity memorial knockout tournament organised by Steve`s father Mick and played at the Dial pub, Stourbridge and very popular it was too with as many as 120 pairs entering some years. I was lucky enough to win the competition in 1999 along with former Midland Open winner Steve Round. Upon winning the title with Steve, we both received, along with a cash prize, a Hamlet red and cream coloured board. 

The ‘pizza’ board (great description) I was given as part of the winner’s prize was donated to the team playing at the Queens Head, Pensnett but proved to be unpopular because of the cream and red colours. It was used in several league matches until players complained the colours were off-putting. The Queens Head is sadly no longer standing like so many of local pubs gone forever, along with their darts teams.

Having been told by another subscriber, Andy S., that Hamlet dartboards had been used in the past by Hampshire County Darts Organisation, I wrote to that organisation’s General Secretary, Frank Branscombe, for information. Frank wrote back almost immediately saying

Hi Patrick. Trust you are well. You must be psychic!! I have just done a few notes on the Hamlet ‘Pizza’ Board.

The background of its inception refers back to one afternoon when I received a phone call from Mike Hallett who was then the Promotions Manager of Hamlet Cigars. He was looking for a means of promoting the product in the South of England where it was still being outsold by other brands such as Castella, etc. and he was wondering if a promotion via darts could help.

We met at an hotel in Eastleigh that evening and the concept of Hamlet sponsoring the Hampshire Men’s Super League became a reality. We enjoyed several years of mutually beneficial sponsorship and during that time Hamlet provided playing shirts for all Super League Teams, financed costs for events such as the BDO Champions Cup, gave monetary support for the league and produced large quantities of advertising memorabilia, for example, sets of darts, darts flights, darts cases, key rings, playing cards etc., etc.

Hamlet did Sales Promotions in venues giving reduced drinks prices when buying cigars etc. They really did an intensive advertising operation and we were lucky enough to be beneficiaries of its success. During that time they commissioned our then top player and England International Ged Harrop [pictured] to do a series of Hamlet Challenges in I think some 12 x pubs and clubs in and around the Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant and surrounding area. This was extremely successful and well supported and Ged won every match he played.

Ged Harrop

(Image of Ged Harrop © Hampshire Darts Organisation. Used with permission.)

Hamlet also sponsored a Mixed Triples event which was a huge success and eventually won by Ged Harrop, Stan Brimecome and Tracey Lennon [It was this event that prompted the Ged Harrop Challenges.]

The access we gave Hamlet into the pubs and clubs, together with special cigar offers they set up, boosted their sales and they eclipsed the other brands very quickly for which Mike and his Management Team were most grateful.

We and the Hamlet promotion team were sad to see the discontinuation of the sponsorship but in the cold hard business world I suppose we had achieved the targets by getting the name out there and the product on the shelves and from then on the quality of the product would determine its future.

It was during this time that the Hamlet Dartboard was conceived and the idea was that it would be played on at Super League Matches and if possible County Matches [which had this been possible would have been beneficial in extra sponsorship of the Hampshire County Teams]. I discussed the concept with Olly (Croft of the BDO) and whilst he saw no problem with us using the board at Hampshire Super League he did not think that the British Inter County Championships were quite ready for it yet!! [He said it wouldn’t work without a red treble 20 – and he was probably right as we would have had no ‘lipstick’ to aim at!!!] The board was met with mixed opinions by the players and soon became nicknamed, for obvious reasons, the ‘Pizza Board’ and it never really caught on other than as a novelty.

There are still some shirts in existence as Hamlet really did make and supply hundreds…and not only to darts players. Hamlet continued to have them made for a while and some found themselves in different parts of the country. I had several in my garden shed until they went mouldy and were discarded!

They do invoke many happy memories of a great association and working partnership we had with Mike Hallett and Hamlet Cigars.

There must be many more tobacco advertising dartboards in darts fans private collections. The ‘Pizza’ dartboard being only one.

© 2016-2019 Patrick Chaplin (with thanks to all DDN subscribers who provided feedback on the original article).

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