The Tour de France is a branding Tour de Force (Part Three)

So back to the sponsors. The Tour de France official website lists 44 official suppliers and partners, including broadcast and technical partners. Each has their opportunity for brand exposure, much of which happens in the publicity caravan. But the caravan does not get much TV time, at least not what I could see and I watched the tour coverage on French television and back in NY on Versus, the NBC owned sports network which covered the entire tour live and consumed a lot of my time this July. The brands that get the most out of the TV coverage are the team sponsors. As mentioned, there are 22 teams. Each consists of nine riders. That’s nine jerseys plus cycling shorts covered in the team sponsor logos, plus the support vehicles, bikes and water bottles. Now, with generally four hours of live TV coverage for each of the 21 stages of the race, that’s a lot of time for marketable moments and brand exposure. Team Garmin-Cervelo, incidentally my team of choice, cleaned up this year. They won best overall team which means they also enjoyed their team members out front in the small breakaway groups getting maximum TV time. First, world champion and lead rider of the Germin-Cervelo team, Thor Hushovd, sprinted to third place in the opening stage. Next, the team powered to victory in the stage 2 team time trial putting Hushovd into the yellow jersey. The team defended the jersey until stage nine, with all the TV exposure that goes with that. Hushovd ‘s giving credit for his win to his Cervelo S5 highly aerodynamic bike was...
The Tour de France is a branding Tour de Force (Part Two)

The Tour de France is a branding Tour de Force (Part Two)

After a bit of online research, I was intrigued to discover that the Tour de France was the brainchild of a sports writer at L’Auto newspaper and its editor, Henri Desgrange, as a tactic to boost circulation. And, well it worked… the first race in 1903 captured the imagination of France and L’Auto‘s circulation increased from 25,000 to 65,000 and knocked L’Auto‘s main competitor paper out of business within two years. Circulation continued to grow reaching 250,000 within 5 years, 500,000 after 20 and 854,000 ten years after that. This Tour around France invented bicycle stage racing. The rules of the race changed many times in the early years. In 1930 when the founder believed the sponsors and manufacturers were undermining the spirit of a Tour de France of individuals, he insisted that competitors ride only yellow no-name-brand plain yellow bicycles that he provided. So, in that year the Tour changed into a competition largely between teams representing their countries rather than their corporate sponsors. Desgrange raised the money needed to cover the costs of supporting the riders by charging advertisers to precede the race, rather than follow it as sponsors had previously done - and we had the birth of Tour de France publicity caravan. Between 1930 and the mid-1960s, the years before television and television advertising in France, the caravan was at its height. Advertisers competed to attract public attention. Today, the excesses to which advertisers are allowed to go are limited, but at first anything went. The caravan precedes the riders by an hour and a half during each stage of the race and takes a...
The Tour de France is a branding Tour de Force (Part One)

The Tour de France is a branding Tour de Force (Part One)

I recently made the pilgrimage to Southwest France to follow the Tour de France. As a keen fan for several years now, I appreciated the Tour de France as the world’s most famous multi-day bike race and the most fervently supported and anticipated sporting event in France. But now that I have experienced it firsthand, I have an even greater respect for le Tour. It is much more than a bike race. It is a three week marketing and branding Tour de Force. What initially struck me was the brand of Tour de France. This is a 100+ year old brand that is deeply embraced by the French and recognized around the world. It represents France and all that is French. For three weeks every July television viewers around the world take a virtual tour through mountain ranges, towns and monuments all over France and are introduced to French culture, brands and people. And with 22 teams of 9 riders each sporting shirts and shorts covered in logos, this is a 21-stage race between 198 walking (or riding) billboards and endless chances for marketable moments for sponsors. My adventure included 7 race stages, 900km of driving through umpteen charming French towns, 400km of cycling including four grueling mountain summits and exhilarating (more like terrifying) descents, 20 plus hours shivering or sweltering on the side lines and several bottles of shared wine with fellow spectators. In addition to firmer thighs, a hoarse voice from screaming “allez, allez” and some incredible memories, I’ve returned with a camera full of great shots of the riders whizzing by in their sponsor-laden jersey’s and...

Brand Baby 2: Captain America runs on Dunkin’

The staff at the Mount Kisco branch of Dunkin’ Donuts could have done with a company sponsoring earplugs rather than promoting superhero donuts during a visit with my three boys. They couldn’t hide their ecstasy as they saw Captain America in Dunkin’s window. I’m not sure what was more exhilarating - the impression Captain America visits Dunkin’, he makes his own donuts or the anticipation of frosted sprinkles. To my embarrassment, full throttle, glass shattering screaming continued whilst in line – “Captain America, Captain America” - the shouting got shriller and shriller. It seems 2011 is the summer for superheroes as the Marvel series gains new cinematic life through the likes of Thor and Captain America. Today superheroes, like other brands, have evolved beyond being characters defined by generic category attributes of goodness over evil to carefully positioned portfolios with each character representing a distinct brand of superheroism. The Marvel Series trailer ably demonstrated how to advertise an endorsed brand strategy. Each superhero with its’ unique brand identity is tightly controlled and stretched across seemingly infinite product categories. Characters greet us in everything from tableware to shams, from candy to shoes, from dress up outfits, from masks to room accessories and personal care. Advances in cinematic technology have potential to bring to life product placements in new ways and facilitate further brand stretch opportunities. If the forthcoming aroma cinema was in time for Captain America one can imagine branded aftershave to appeal to those with greater purchasing power. Product placements in Captain America and Thor also point to these brands developing their reach as they seek partners who speak...
Brand Baby 1: Peace. I’m lovin it.

Brand Baby 1: Peace. I’m lovin it.

I’m not advocating McDonald’s serves particularly nutritious food. I’ve heard all the stories about the nugget meat being pre-washed in ammonia, scary levels of fructose corn syrup, red dye - the list goes on. A friend of mine tells her kids McDonald’s is a public toilet to turn them off. I live in Westchester, NY, where it’s perfectly possible a no carb diet is an entry requirement for country club membership and eating food fresh off the farm is as necessary as having a the latest 4WD, so the concept of eating a chicken McNugget here is stranger than a banker plowing his own snow. Yet there’s something so good about some of their products and then there’s the nostalgia that keeps the brand sweet for me – birthday parties as a kid and post cinema hang out as a teen. As a recently ex-patrioted Brit, I have a slightly different view of McDonald’s than most of my fellow Bedfordians. Post year 2000, McDonald’s actively courted the British middle-class. They remodelled restaurants to feel more like places you could linger in rather than race to get out fast, and put fresher food on the menu to put the emphasis on food fast rather than fast food. If my peer group in the UK are a measure I think they’ve been successful. It was perfectly acceptable to use McDonald’s as a post school pit stop and see other families from school with the same idea. After visiting various branches in NY State I am disappointed to see how grubby and out of date they feel, and even after other outlets...
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