The pinnacle of professional cycling is Tour de France. The race is a sporting mega-event and a large commercial show, which is enjoyed by millions of fans and hence acts as a market place for a dynamic flow of money. Teams, riders, sponsors, media, fans, cities and regions are among the actors in this entertaining sporting show, which mirrors many admirable athletic performances although the influx of doping scandals has been a downside for the sport.
On top of the enduring attitude of riders striving to climb steep mountains and going beyond physical and mental pain in their efforts to complete the prestigious three-week race, the uniqueness of professional cycling from a fan perspective is the proximity to the action. Moreover, the race is an extraordinary sporting event in the sense that you can actually attend the event ‘for free’ while the proximity is so intense that you can almost touch the riders when they pass. In every start or finish point, you will see fans trying to get a quick look at the star riders or hoping for an autograph, or some team merchandise (e.g. water bottles). Some fans will even wait outside the riders’ hotels in hope of meeting them and so far the level of proximity is intense and one of the charming points of professional cycling so I certainly hope that the race and teams will keep it this way.
Photo: My friend Lars Vetter illustrates the ‘fan proximity’ of professional cycling – the picture displays the distance from Lars to Mark Cavendish during the starting point of one of the stages in the race ‘Post Danmark Rundt’.
In any ‘commercial sporting show’, the rights holders are eager to exploit the millions of ‘live’ spectators along the roads of the race or the millions of eyeballs following the race on various media. The business-related and money-making caravan, which consists of +100 vehicles is like a ‘flashing’ and ‘moving’ interactive billboard. The caravan hands out commercial gifts and samples.
Photo: Examples of Tour de France sponsorship deals (source: Sport Marketing Frontiers, 2013).
Main sponsors such as the official car of Tour de France, Skoda or drinks producer Vittel, candy company Haribo and retail store company Carrefour pays large sums to be associated with the race. The ‘event space’ and ‘brand space’ is enormous. Much open road is accessible so the race serves as a perfect occasion to set up multiple picnics while enjoying the ‘passing circus of riders and sponsors’. Another characteristic of the race is the fact that being a Tour de France fan is associated with a great deal of independence in the way that it is easy to plan an individual trip (and to visit multiple stages of the race) according to economic and geographical considerations. Some fans have even applied hitch-hiking as a method to go from one stage to another and that is a cheap and alternative way to sports consumption.
The media and fan appeal of the race has a great economic meaning for the Tour de France locations. To find accommodation, it is often a good idea to start the booking process now (this fall) to secure a good location for next year’s race (as soon as the route for the race is known). That initiative helps YOU in your pursuit for the best deals. As mentioned in the beginning of the post, this aspect is a positive economic influencer on cities and regions but ‘third party actors’ are always to be found around large sporting events, i.e. due to the fact that organizations from other business areas than cycling may benefit from doing business in relation to Tour de France (e.g. specialized traveling companies, organizers of recreational cycling trips, merchandise producers, security suppliers etc.). Although a city may have to invest highly in achieving the privilege to arrange the start or end of one of the Tour de France stages, the investment often pays off measured purely on the ‘realized PR-value’. Thousands of visitors will travel to the city and then if you add accommodation, restaurants and shops to the equation, the investment makes perfect sense. However, rights holders and assessors of the event must consider aspects like opportunity costs, long-term legacy effects and balancing evaluations done ‘ex ante’, during and ‘ex post’ of the event.
Watching Tour de France, I have always been very fascinated by the athletic performances when the riders hit the mountains. Additionally, it is captivating from a fan perspective to see the amount of tourists attracted by these stages. Fans are so close to the race and for small romantic and mountainous villages the publicity from the race goes beyond what would be feasible to pay if the village had to pay for that in connection to ordinary advertising prices. Then, you may attach the long-term effect, which is derived from the amount of people, who are exposed to the beauty of the region. The regions, citys or villages of Tour de France receive much appreciated recognition, especially if you consider that the large investments are mainly associated with the ‘start and finish locations’ and not those locations, which the caravan passes on its way from A to B. So it is not an exaggerated statement to say that French regions, citys and villages may benefit from Tour de France even in periods when the race is not passing through. The fact that some cycling fans arrive at a stage location a week or several days before a specific stage of the race confidently leads to additional revenues for the regions, citys or villages of the race because with a longer stay cycling fans will have a higher probability of being caught in a process where their interactions result in increased loyalty to come back. Finally, cycling as a recreational actitivity has become rather popular in various regions of the world and as we have seen in golf people may come back to follow in the footsteps of their professional heroes. In golf, you have the opportunity to play the same courses and in cycling to ride the same roads as the professionals. In football/soccer, it is tough to go to Barcelona and to claim a chance to play on the pitch of Camp Nou unless you are a professional.
Check these videos to learn more about the business of professional cycling:
Read about social media and Tour de France:
From Mojave (click the link)….