Experiential Sports Marketing At The Tour De France

At the Tour de France, brands are using expe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing to con­nect with and thrill fans. This is how they bring their brand sto­ries to life.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Brands today have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn up their mar­ket­ing activ­i­ties around major sports events. With YouTube, Twit­ter, Insta­gram, and emerg­ing plat­forms such as Periscope, brands have a fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect with engaged fans, thrill them with immer­sive, expe­ri­en­tial sto­ries, and bring their brand sto­ry to life. Who are the brands doing this the best at the Tour de France?


When it comes to active spec­ta­tors, the Tour de France is the most viewed sport in the world. This year’s course takes place from July 4 to 26, and spans 3,360 kilo­me­ters of open French and Dutch coun­try­side from the Grand Depart in Utrecht, to the surg­ing laps of Paris made by the pelo­ton in the race finale.

As a ball­park fig­ure, it’s expect­ed that some­where between 10 mil­lion and 20 mil­lion peo­ple will see the race live, some fol­low­ing the route across France and oth­ers watch­ing the Tour race past in the pic­turesque towns of the French coun­try­side. Glob­al audi­ence esti­mates are sketchy, but even con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mates of 2014 view­ing fig­ures put audi­ences at 1.4 bil­lion.

Accord­ing to fig­ures pub­lised by the York­shire Post, 2014’s Tour is expect­ed to have brought in media val­ue of $167 mil­lion for York­shire alone, last year’s hosts of the Grand Depart. For the top teams, the val­ue is even greater; British based Team Sky are esti­mat­ed to have brought in $556 mil­lion in 2013, spurred by Bradley Wig­gins vic­to­ry in the gen­er­al clas­si­fi­ca­tion, with “$407 mil­lion com­ing from TV, $86 mil­lion from online media, and $63 mil­lion from print.”

All in all, it makes for a prime oppor­tu­ni­ty for cer­tain brands to mar­ket to a high­ly engaged audi­ence across a three week peri­od. A high­ly effec­tive prac­tice for brands and spon­sors is to cre­ate immer­sive and expe­ri­en­tial con­tent around the Tour. It’s a tech­nique being fuelled by dig­i­tal media, which is increas­ing­ly being used to pro­vide an addi­tion­al per­spec­tive on the sport; team video diaries, “on-board” footage, and social media are being used very effec­tive­ly, giv­ing con­sumers oppor­tu­ni­ties to engage, and allow­ing them to feel involved.

For an immer­sive con­tent exam­ple, check out Giant Alpecin’s on-board footage of the Stage 5 crash and sprint prepa­ra­tion for the run in to Amiens:

Filmed on a GoPro, the style is rem­i­nis­cent of the cam­era manufacturer’s immer­sive, gonzo style, and indeed, GoPro has also released video con­tent of the Tour, albeit in much less chaot­ic cir­cum­stances:

A New Perspective

What adds pow­er and share­abil­i­ty to the con­tent in the above exam­ples? The videos pro­vide a per­spec­tive on pro­fes­sion­al cycling that isn’t gen­er­al­ly acces­si­ble to view­ers.

Video con­tent allows the brands to com­mu­ni­cate excite­ment and thrills in the heat of the moment, and pub­lish­ing on social media plat­forms makes them incred­i­bly acces­si­ble. Addtion­al­ly, the video con­tent adds a sto­ry­line for the inter­nal ele­ment of the Tour which is, appro­pri­ate­ly, the oper­at­ing space of the brands and spon­sors them­selves.

Spon­sors can now present more than just the logos on the cyclist’s jersey’s and team cars. Brands are able to tell rel­e­vant sto­ries around the sport, their day-to-day sup­port of  the teams and rid­ers, and their brand’s role in the sport.

ORICA GreenEDGE’s “mechan­ic cam” of the mas­sive Stage 3 pile up brings the hav­oc of the moment to vivid life. The video, which amassed more than 1 mil­lion views on the first day alone, also pro­vides a nar­ra­tive of the back­stage team’s mechan­ics and han­dlers that enable the race to con­tin­ue.

The key is in gen­er­at­ing con­sis­tent engage­ment on social media. Giv­ing con­sumers a chance to con­nect with brands, and even the rid­ers them­selves is can add a nice touch, and even more niche plat­forms can play a part.

For exam­ple, cycling data-geeks can use a ded­i­cat­ed cycling GPS app, Stra­va, to check out the speed, times, and pow­er read­ings uploaded by pro­fes­sion­al cyclists rid­ing the Tour, and see whether they would be able to keep up with the pros. Ded­i­cat­ed fans can check out the data on Andre Griepel’s  last kilo­me­ter on the run in to Amiens for before his stage win­ning sprint, for exam­ple.

greipel-strava2 greipel-strava

While this large­ly inter­ests only the most ded­i­cat­ed of cycling fans, it shows how dig­i­tal media is enabling the pro­fes­sion­al cycling com­mu­ni­ty to con­nect and engage on a vari­ety of plat­forms.

Behind-The-Scenes Storytelling

In a broad­er sense, cycling spon­sors are effec­tive­ly using social media plat­forms. What’s impres­sive is the qual­i­ty and engage­ment poten­tial of the con­tent brands, and par­tic­u­lar­ly team spon­sors, are pro­duc­ing.

It can be as sim­ple as a selfie/tweet of the race lead­ers cus­tom yel­low han­dle­bar tape and bot­tles:

Or as in the case of Team Sky, it’s in behind-the-scenes sto­ry­telling with­in team video diaries.

By pro­vid­ing a rich vari­ety of con­tent, spon­sors can max­i­mize the media val­ue of their brand. The Tour de France has a huge glob­al audi­ence, and is as pop­u­lar in the U.S. as it is in West­ern Europe, and with grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty in Africa and Asia – dig­i­tal media enables con­sumers from all over the world to enjoy and expe­ri­ence the sto­ries of the Tour.

Social Media Publishing

Per­haps the great­est exam­ple in recent years of social media pub­lish­ing was the Red Bull Stratos event, which saw Felix Baum­gart­ner under­take a record-break­ing free fall to Earth at super­son­ic speed. The stream attract­ed a record break­ing live audi­ence of 8 mil­lion to YouTube, and the con­tent is still pop­u­lar to this day.

More recent­ly, Bradley Wiggin’s suc­cess­ful ‘Hour Record’ attempt sim­i­lar­ly set alight social media, run­ning with the hash­tag #myhour, encour­ag­ing a flur­ry of sup­port­ive mes­sages on Twit­ter and oth­er social media plat­forms. At the time Wiggin’s cloth­ing spon­sor, Rapha, also set up a ded­i­cat­ed microsite encour­ag­ing ama­teur cyclists to com­mit to their own #myhour record attempts, tak­ing place at their glob­al net­work of cycling clubs and share them on the site.

rapha-myhour

In the past, brand sport spon­sor­ship may have depend­ed on broad­cast­ing mod­els and adver­tis­ing. But with the abil­i­ty to pub­lish con­tent on social media quick­ly and effi­cient­ly, this is no longer the case.

Rich dig­i­tal media, such as pho­tos, videos, offer a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to give view­ers a medi­um in which to con­nect and con­sume. Sports mar­ket­ing is a prime can­di­date for social media pub­lish­ing around an event as it’s pos­si­ble to con­nect with hyper-engaged audi­ences, at least for a fixed time peri­od, and give them the abil­i­ty to con­nect with their favorite teams.

Expe­ri­en­tial sports mar­ket­ing can be used to forge vibrant con­nec­tions with con­sumers, and buzz around a sport­ing event. It lets con­sumers feel more involved, and allows brands to tell their own sto­ries around the sport. Social media is a fan­tas­tic plat­form for brands to pub­lish immer­sive and expe­ri­en­tial con­tent, enlight­en­ing spec­ta­tors with addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion and nar­ra­tives, and giv­ing them every oppor­tu­ni­ty to view, share, and engage.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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