When anyone thinks of a cycling event most probably the first event to come to there mind will be Tour De France…welcome to event 52 of the adventure but one that told me quite a story.
What was the event?
Event: Tour De France Arrival – Stage 9
Location: Saint Etiennes
Date: 13th of July
The story begins…
Standing for 5 hours on the side of a pavement – pretending to not feel the whack that was delivered to my left ribs by someone who attempted to barge past for a good view. It was a battle to be at the barrier as the cyclists arrived. This was 3 hours before the cyclist would actually arrive. It was a standing waiting game but along the way I made friends but also made a lot of observations.
Arriving at 12:30 (5 hours before the official arrival) I noticed a small standing gap that I knew could be mine. I sat on the kerb of the road and listened to the various accents behind and around me. The American accent was standing out the most. Within 20 minutes we were all friends. It was delightful. But the whole waiting for the arrival was quite a thing. A few people had done this before that were near me and had tactics but also knew some of the people working on the event. It was a great wee spot about 4 barriers along from the finish line and allowed me to capture the great moment of the winner of Stage 8 cross the line.
The whole event started 4 hours before when what’s called “the caravan” came through at the front of the event. Each float is created by each sponsor of the event. The caravan is about creating route engagement. They give out free stuff on route and create a party like atmosphere with music on one of the floats like a DJ on wheels. It’s clever. I like the whole concept. It was at least 50 vehicles with animations which were a mixture of size and also in terms of what the aim of the engagement was – but apparently there was another hidden motive to this. French people are known to love free stuff and the caravan was introduced to try and reach out and get locals to come out along the route. The need for something that is merchandise from Tour De France isn’t actually the point here. It’s more just a free thing. A thing that they can use, keep or say look what I got. It all fits into this psychological behaviour of how to capture audiences – and the Tour De France has it spot on. As outsiders we see the event as a national treasure and the brand image that is iconic. Yes cycling has got and still to an extent a history of controversial incidents but the event of the Tour De France is a global institution on the events calendar. But there is so much more to it – including the question do locals and citizens of France actually care for the event. Probably not but it’s not a tourism strategy in itself. Another thing they do is have competitions for the best displays from communities from the air. So if a farmer has a field they will put an activation such as a display of a cyclist using tractors and so on – can have a chance to win a competition. Genius for sure.
The finish site was an activations heaven for the brands. Constantly up and down the line giving out the samples and freebies. But they are for sure needing to question sustainability. I was there for 5 hours and within that time I lost count of how plastic water bottles I was offered. Vittel as the main sponsor and they gave out a crazy amount of plastic – never mind the water. So I question the Tour De France to change the amount of waste. Create a sustainability policy that is with the times and forward thinking so your event is aligning with world issues for the future. Or even change it so that you get given your own water bottle and trucks come up and down to fill the bottle – instead of single use plastic.
The fans love the event – absolutely adore the whole concept of what the Tour De France is…and I can get it. It’s about the control of jerseys. The endurance cycling. The team competition. The thrill of what each stage can bring. Events like this give people a feeling of escapism and a purpose of why they they love the sport.
One thing to take away…
The story of the Tour De France is a beautiful one. The event is more than just a bike race. Possibilities for opportunities bigger than the race. So where will it be in 5 years…as long as sponsors don’t ruin it will be still selling France in a way no other marketing campaign ever could…