The winner of the 2015 Tour de France is ostensibly Britain’s Chris Froome, who finished the 21-day race in 84 hours and 46 minutes. He’s the winner as far as the sport is concerned. But the real winners, as far as the business is concerned, are undoubtedly the sponsors.
Let’s break it down like the stages of France’s famed race.
Stage 1. Sponsor a team
Lead sponsors like Europcar, BMC, and Sky plunk down $20 million-$40 million per year to cover the costs of a pro team preparing for the Tour de France. In addition to travel, food, and gear, that also includes the team uniform or kit with the sponsor’s name and logo emblazoned on it. Other sponsors might chip in less for smaller or less desirable name and logo placement on the kit.
Stage 2. Get a rider in the breakaway
While most riders stay in a large group, called the peloton, there are usually a few riders who manage to break away and ride ahead of the pack for part of the day. In addition to the race leader, the riders in the breakaway get the most TV time. Often riders who can’t win the overall race or even a stage can do their part for sponsors by riding in the breakaway for maximum exposure. More than 200 channels carry the Tour to a global audience of around 4 billion people, and millions of people line the sides of the road to watch and cheer.
Stage 3. Win the best-team competition
There are many races within the race at the Tour de France, and best team is one of them. Sometimes the overall race winner is from the winning team but not always. Advertisers pay for people to show their logo and say their names on TV. Sponsors of Tour teams have their names uttered over and over by the announcers as they discuss team standings, what team is riding at the front, and what teams are riding well.
Stage 4. Win a stage
Each day’s race is a stage, and someone wins every one of those 21 days. That person usually zips up his jersey and sits up tall, often pointing to the sponsor’s name across his chest, as he crosses the finish line in front of thousands of screaming fans, hundreds of flashing cameras, and the ever-present TV cameras. The prize money for each day’s win, and sprints along the route, is awarded directly to the riders, so all the exposure is what sponsors pay for.
Stage 5. Reap the rewards
The ROI of advertising in sports is hard to quantify. Let’s just look at it this way — in 2014 a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl required $4 million and a 60-second spot was $8 million. Plus the million or more it costs to produce the ad. So for roughly $5 million-$10 million, your company can get in front of about 108 million people (Super Bowl watchers in 2014) for a minute. Or for $20 million-$40 million you could get in front of 4 billion rabid (loyal) fans for hours and hours, spread over three weeks. Here’s a complete list of the 2015 Tour de France team sponsors.
For business fans and sports fans alike, that’s math worth cheering for.
Lynett Oliver has been covering retail and consumer companies since Amazon was still a book seller, Target was owned by Dayton Hudson, and Gucci was fighting LVMH’s takeover. Since then she’s covered food and beverage, healthcare and insurance, and too many others to name but she’s glad to be back home in retail. You can also follow Lynett on Twitter.