Vacation with amusement included, please.

Vacation with amusement included, please.

Labor Day.  The last day of summer vacation. Officially, yes.  But in practice, no more.  During the nine years we lived in the UK, Labor Day seems to have lost much of its meaning as the flow of summer changed in the US with shifting school calendars.  Whether you’re in university or first grade, other than a few exceptions, it’s highly likely you returned to school before Labor Day. And, the idea of summer vacation.  Does it even exist any more?  Leisurely days with no obligations. Nothing scheduled. Relaxing on the beach.  Running barefoot in a stream.  Leaving the worries of daily life and the world behind. Even before the recession this was hard.  Between the choices for summer camps and classes and wireless devices does anyone really leave all their cares behind any more?  Certainly not in the US.  And, although I have many English friends who would strongly argue the opposite, in Britain (and even more so Europe) the summer holidays, and school holidays year-round, seemed more sacred. For both children and their parents. Interestingly, the word each nation chooses to use to describe time off from work or school seems to capture some of this cultural difference. As many people know the word holiday comes from holy day - haliday (c.1200), from O.E. haligdæg “holy day; Sabbath”- and in the 14th Century came to mean both religious festival and, my favourite, day of amusement.  In the mid-1800‘s people started to holiday and the word became a verb. The roots of the word vacation are a bit more complex. It too stems from the 14th Century when...
A dinner party, a focus group

A dinner party, a focus group

As far as I know, modern rules of etiquette still dictate that mobile phones, tablets, etc. should not be used at the dinner table. But more and more I’m finding that when the conversation becomes truly engaging, someone always reaches for an electronic device to look up the meaning of a word or history of something referenced or even find a YouTube video to illustrate a point. While Emily Post, Letitia Baldridge and my grandmother would likely be upset and I do believe it’s impolite to answer a call or text at the dinner table, I also now think that using an electronic device as a reference tool helps to keep conversation flowing and even makes it more fascinating. The other night was no exception to this. We were still in Marblehead and crew and friends had joined us for dinner. The party around the table ranged in age from 19 to 51. Well ranged is possibly the wrong word. It was more that we had two groups of dinner guests that hovered mostly around each of these end points. As is common after a day of racing, the conversation began with a debriefing of the events, who did what right and what wrong and the status of protests. With the wine flowing and the food flavourful and plentiful, the discussion somehow comfortably transitioned into social media and our varying attitudes toward it. I think one of the early twentysomethings created a segue when he mentioned he had tweeted about his boat’s performance and his “Captain,” a gentleman just teetering over 50, in turn made a follow up comment...

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...
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