Tour De France Team Sponsors Not Getting All Their 'TV Time' Value?

This year's 21-day road cycling event -- Tour de France -- may not be offering team marketing partners all the brand spin on television that they have had in the past. The focus here is on the ‘breakaway’ -- which some teams and riders are apparently avoiding.

“I'm a little bit upset with this Tour no one wants to go into the breakaway,” says Tejay van Garderen, analyst (and former Tour de France rider) during stage six of NBC Sports’ Tour de France presentation on Peacock.

Garderen, who is also currently an assistant sports director of EF Education-Easy Post -- a team in the Tour -- adds:

“You could have four hours of publicity for a sponsor... What kind of value does that bring to some of these teams with their [brands] plastered all over the jersey?” The answer is: A lot.



Breakaways, which are key moments of these three-week races, occur more or less on a daily basis. This is when a few riders -- from two or three to as many as 30 riders -- bolt out of the peloton (which is a group of around 200 riders). This small group sharply increases their pace in the hope of winning that day’s race.

This can become an important time for marketers, where brand names are emblazoned on riders' jerseys on teams that adopt the names of those sponsors:.

At this year's event, for example, they include Alpecin–Deceuninck (hair products and window/doors sponsors); Arkéa–B&B Hotels (banking and a French hotel chain); Decathlon–AG2R La Mondiale (French sporting goods and insurance).

A U.S.-based team, EF Education–EasyPost, is a combination of an international education company and a logistics company specializing in shipping.

Not all cyclists want or need to go into a breakaway, depending on the racers' individual strengths, goals, and timing.

But some small Tour de France teams may have no alternative. They can't really aspire to win the big race overall, or each daily race, called a “stage’. They are smaller budgeted teams that can't afford to hire the big powerful riders.

“Traditionally, in the grand tours, that is part of the role of these wild-card small teams in the race, especially the French teams,” said Brent Bookwalter, another studio analyst/former Tour rider, during stage 6 of the race on Peacock.

So what do they do? They go in the "breakaway" where there is a chance -- albeit a small chance, perhaps 10% to 15% -- that they may get close to the finish line, and an even smaller chance of someone from the breakaway group winning.

But even if that doesn't happen, those cyclists can give valuable TV screen marketing time to their sponsor/marketing partners. 

Now, this strategy isn't typically spelled out for riders by team directors before the race.  Instead they are just told, “try to get into the breakaway today.” 

But this kind of racing is changing: Small teams are doing this less and less, trying to pick even more selective moments to “race”, hoping to save energy.

Because of this, some commentators say the racing action has become duller -- especially when races can be three to four-and-a-half hours in length.

Says Bookwalter: “There really used to be some prestige and honor in flying the flag for your country, for your team, for your sponsors.”

So this billboard-like live sports TV media business is changing for sure. Not sure if sponsors are hurting due to the lack of modern media engagement with the TV viewers as a result.

Maybe sponsors will need change, perhaps to promote some indoor spinning studios and their virtual classes -- with Peloton, for example -- where breakaways are harder to come by. 

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