The Grandest Grand Depart

The buzz surrounding the Tour de France has surely exceeded even the lofty expectations of organisers. Larger than expected crowds thronged the streets of Leeds as the lycra-clad riders were given a royal send off by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince Harry.

The send off was so successful that Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme dubbed it the “grandest” Grand Départ in the history of the event.

And, as the race reached London, the capital was crammed with fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous cycling event.

Brands Race Forward

The opportunities for business have been myriad. Just as with any major sporting event, the possibilities for tie-in marketing campaigns and sponsorship deals are endless.

Yorkshire Tea seized the chance to have its brand name associated with the major sporting event passing through its home county. Five million Yorkshire Thé teabags were given out free to fans during the race’s visit to Yorkshire. They proved so popular that boxes of the bags started to change hands on online auction sites.

Then, of course, there were the official sponsors, partners and suppliers to the event, which included household names along with local businesses, including Sheffield Hallam University, Europcar and Cono Sur. But it was Yorkshire Building Society who pulled off the marketing coup of the Grand Départ by dying a herd of sheep yellow to emulate the race’s famous yellow jersey.

It wasn’t just larger firms getting involved. Many smaller businesses have used the tour as a peg in their marketing campaigns too.

In Sheffield, a special French-themed market included cookery demonstrations from S&J Pantry when Yorkshire ingredients were cooked up in French recipes. Meanwhile, bike maintenance organisation Recycle Bikes took the opportunity to go along to the market with customised bikes and offer potential customers the chance to have their photographs taken wearing official tour t-shirts.

Bike stores have been offering special promotions and discounts while other firms extended opening hours to tie in with the event, some decorated their premises in yellow and another tactic was to offer special offers for customers arriving by bike.

Le Tour Boosts UK Cycling

But, it wasn’t just spectators or marketers who were excited about the UK hosting the opening stages of the Tour de France. The announcement that the famed race would pass through Yorkshire and London, ignited a desire among weekend cyclists to dig their bikes out from the back of their sheds and start pedalling once more.

In the run up to the event cycling clubs across Yorkshire reported record membership levels and an interest in the sport like they had never seen before. This new found love for the sport wasn’t just limited to Yorkshire, with the number of British Cycling affiliated clubs across the UK having risen from 1,570 in 2011 to almost 1,800 at present.

UK chain Halfords, a bike and car parts retailer, have reported an “exceptional performance” across their cycling range with sales growing in all areas from children’s bikes to top end racing bikes and the event even appears to have softened motorists’ stance on cyclists on the road.

Whereas it may have been thought that the relationship between drivers and cyclists was always a stormy one, a new survey has found that the majority of motorists think favourably of the cyclists they share the roads with. Overall, the survey found 30% of motorists said cyclists were harmless and 15% went as far as saying they wished there were more cyclists, pointing out that they kept the numbers of cars on the road down.

So, while the tour has so far been notoriously cruel to the likes of Chris Froome, who called it a day after falling three times, there have also been plenty of winners, not least the businesses, small and large, who have used the excitement surrounding the race to generate a buzz for their own brand, services and products too.