With the buzz around the 2018 Tour de France finally settling for another year, we congratulate the 2018 winner – Geraint Thomas and his amazing achievement with Team Sky. However, it’s time to talk about the real winner of the Tour de France… France.
The Tour de France is the world’s most popular annual sports event and has been going strong since 1903. The race was created by newspaper, L’Auto, who had the view of competing against rival newspaper Le Velo, hoping to boost sales and circulation. L’Auto was so successful in the first couple of years of the race, Le Velo reluctantly ceased operations. Much like the Michelin Guide was aimed at getting French cars on the road, The Tour de France was originally about selling newspapers, which it did. In 1903, the newspaper sold only 25,000 copies. Five years later, due to the ongoing popularity of the Tour de France, L’Auto was selling upwards of 250,000.
Evergreen content marketing
To this day, the Tour de France has remained the most evergreen and consistent piece of content marketing in existence. The race regularly attracts approximately 3.5 billion viewers on a yearly basis. Alongside the global TV audience, there are also the supporters that line the streets every year, putting the audience figure close to the 10 million mark. The supporters are part of the content that showcases France. With up to 300 event and team sponsors each year, the Tour de France is a truly global event that showcases the best of France year in year out, reaching every corner of the world.
I’ve been following the Tour de France for a number of years now and I can’t help but keep tuning into each stage. I can imagine most readers may think that the Tour de France is a touch boring. 198 riders in lycra pedalling on a bike through French roads. While, yes, that is the essence of the Tour, it is also far more than just that. It is an education in all that is France. All 21 stages of the Tour pass through beautiful and varied French landscapes; from major cities to villages, coastal towns, beaches, mountain passes and lakes. Through each of these locations, the broadcast commentary team discuss facts and history on each location that the riders pass through. Additionally, videographers focus the viewers’ attention on the locations rather than the riders. Even if you only watched one of the 21 stages, you will definitely come away knowing more about that particular region of France.
Of the many hundreds of official supporters and sponsors of the Tour, it should come as no surprise that the Ministry of the Interior and the Administrative divisions of France are on the list. These governmental agencies have an important say when deciding each year’s route, determining that all regions receive an equal share of the global coverage and branding. Additionally, the Generation Peche (a Fishing society in France), has been partnered with the Tour de France since 2016, stating on their website that “The Tour de France is both a great tool for promoting and promoting our territories and an incredible media springboard”. It is clear that the Tour has permeated itself into the very culture of France and the Tour organisers know just how to capitalise on all that France has to offer.
France is an amazing country, with incredible landmarks and attractions. In 2017, France was the most visited country by tourists, with 80+ million visitors to the country. I can’t help but attribute some of this tourism success to the superior content marketing plan that is rolled out each year come July 7. The Tour de France builds the France ‘brand’ across the world, prioritising French content and highlighting the nation itself.
The Tour de France was originally started to increase circulation of a newspaper. Nowadays, the Tour is the largest, and in my opinion, most successful, content marketing campaign that the world has seen. The Tour, a race with 200 lycra clad men on bikes for 3351km, sells France better than any tourism campaign could.