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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
La Caravane du Tour de France
By Melanie Leveau
With hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the roads of France to catch a glimpse of their heroes flash by, any amusement is better than no amusement. The Tour Caravane is almost as old as the Tour de France itself, and provides a unique way for sponsors to interact with the public and at the same time, relieves the boredom of a day spent waiting by the roadside.
Background and history
The Tour de France was born in 1903 but the publicity convoy or "Caravane" as it is officially known was only created in 1930. During the late 1920s, Meunier Chocolates, Lion Noir shoe polish and Bayard Alarms were already part of the convoy, but were so far behind the race, most of the spectators had already disappeared before they came through!
In 1930, sponsored teams were replaced by national teams and organisers had so to find new ways to finance the race. So the Caravane was created: Meunier Chocolates distributed chocolate and paper flags to the public, and food and prize money to the riders.
The following year, the Caravane grew and had its own organisation. By the 40s and 50s, the Caravane had grown to the extent that it was nearly as popular as the race itself. Sponsors had to be full of imagination by lavishly decorating standard vehicles to attract spectators' attention to their brand names.
Between 1960 and 1990, sponsors changed and the advertising mediums grew, but the Caravane continued to remain attractive to potential advertisers despite the introduction of television advertising during the Tour.. The Caravane was still one of the best ways to reach thousands of people with a moderate investment compared to the large sums of money required for a television ad campaign. It was also a good way for regional companies to increase their brand awareness.
The Caravane today
The Caravane today is comprised of around:
40 brands across
An award is given to the best creations, judged according to aesthetics and the respect of the Tour de France's core values: fête, conviviality, originality, fair play, fair behaviour.
The Caravane has to pass one hour before the race and must follow the peloton speed. It has to account with such factors as television schedules and the wind in order not to disturb the flow of the peloton.
To make the Caravane run like clockwork, huge ressources are deployed, involving:
A word from the sponsors
According to sponsors, the Tour de France is one of the best opportunities for promotion their products. With 15 million spectators each year and over a hundred million television viewers all around the world, the Tour is one of the most popular sporting events and a great environment in which to be seen. 3 out of the 10 most recalled sport sponsors in France belong to cycling: Crédit Agricole, Crédit Lyonnais and Festina.
A number of sponsors have already purchased long-term contracts, such as Coca-Cola (signed up until 2009), Nike until 2005, and France Télécom until 2006. Crédit Lyonnais has already sponsored the yellow jersey for past 20 years and has assured the Société du Tour of its commitment until 2007.
According to Nicolas Chaine, Communications Director of Crédit Lyonnais, it costs 4.35 million euros per year. This year, Fiat celebrates his 15th anniversary as a Tour sponsor with more than 500 of its vehicles participating each year. In 2003, Champion supermarkets are sponsoring the mountain classification for the tenth year running, and invest around seven million euros each year at Le Tour.
Rémy Brouard, Communications Director for Champion, says "80% of our buyers are aware of our relationship with the Tour". Nestlé Aquarel, estimate a doubling of brand awareness in regions crossed by the race since their sponsorship began last year.
Show the Société the money
Most important for the Société are the the eight "official partners", who have to pay between one to two million euros each year upfront before a cent is spent on advertising. One of those partners, PMU - a horse betting firm - is the green jersey sponsor and relies heavily on its presence at the Tour and especially in the Caravane to increase patrons' visits to their offices, particularly in July and August when the horse racing season is at its low point.
The 12 official suppliers, one level below partner status, have to pay between 350-750,000 euros to be part of the Tour and to use the Tour de France logo of the on their products and advertising material. Cochonou Saucissons, a manufacturer of dried French sausage and a past official supplier, claims to enjoy a 30 per cent increase in sales from June to August compared to the other months of the year.
Images courtesy http://perso.club-internet.fr/porsini/acceuil.htm, with loads more photos from the La Caravane du Tour, including a fantastic archive of miniatures of riders and vehicles from the last 100 years.