SBD/Issue 198/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Despite Past Scandals, Sponsors Interested In Tour De France

 
The Tour de France begins Saturday and despite the fact that it may "well be permanently sullied by the doping scandals of the past few years," media buyers said that "advertiser interest in the [race] remains strong," according to Kevin Downey of MEDIA LIFE MAGAZINE. Ad expenditures have "trended up every year since" at least '03. TNS Media Intelligence reported that in '07 advertisers spent $5.5M on Tour programming on Versus, up 8% from '06. Versus VP/Marketing Solutions Steve Margosian noted that the number of sponsors for this year is up from '07, with advertisers like Saab and Anheuser-Busch returning and others like Nestle "signing on for the first time." Margosian: "We are on par or have more sponsors than last year. We're certainly not running behind. The key thing for us is that we actually have three or four new sponsors coming in. We feel very good about it." Sports Business Group President David Carter: "There's reason for advertisers and sponsors to be cautiously optimistic because the number of distractions the sport is facing appears to be diminishing" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 7/1).

DOPING SCANDALS HURTING TOUR: Northwestern Univ. communications professor Irving Rein discussed the Tour de France in a Q&A with MEDIA LIFE MAGAZINE's Lisa Snedeker. Rein said the event has "declined as an attraction" among casual fans in recent years due to the various doping scandals. Rein: "Over the last few years, there's been evidence that television and local interest has not been as strong as in previous years. There's also the star factor that is a variable. Certainly the drama of [cyclist] Lance Armstrong's long streak of wins built interest not only in Europe but in North America." Snedeker asked whether doping allegations surrounding Floyd Landis, the '06 champ who subsequently was stripped of the title after testing positive for banned substances, "will hurt the sport." Rein: "In this competitive marketplace, with so many blue-chip major sports dominating the market and many new sports such as action sports and [MMA] gaining momentum, it would not be hard to see the Tour de France slip into the orbit of rodeos and roller derby." When asked what kind of finances go into a Tour sponsorship, Rein said, "A sponsor could easily spend $20[M] a year supporting a world-class Tour operation. ... These types of sponsorships have grown immensely over the last decade as sponsors find it more difficult to use conventional advertising and other crowded channels to reach their buyers" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 7/1). 

Contador Will Be Unable To Defend Tour De
France Title Due To Team's Past Discretions
TOUR OVERSHADOWED: USA TODAY's Sal Ruibal writes, "Cycling fans have become accustomed to the unusual since the Armstrong era ended. Doping scandals and political battles between Tour organizers and the international cycling federation have received more coverage than the race itself" (USA TODAY, 7/3). In Philadelphia, Bob Ford wrote Tour organizers "once again promise a 'clean' Tour, a promise that has been broken so often, it no longer has much meaning." For the third consecutive year, the first-place finisher from the previous Tour will not be in the field -- Armstrong retired after his '05 victory, Landis was not invited back after '06 and '07 champion Alberto Contador "now rides for a team banned from the Tour because of past doping violations." Of the nine men who "climbed the podium in the previous three Tours, only two are expected at the starting line." For any other sport, "this kind of upheaval would be mayhem," but it is "just another year" for cycling (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/30).

VERSUS: Versus.com, the official Tour de France Web site in the U.S., will offer live streaming of the race from 6:30-8:30am ET for Stage 1 on Saturday, and from 7:00-8:30am ET for Stage 2 on Sunday. TV coverage of the Tour on Versus will start at 8:30am ET both days. On average, the net will air 14 hours of race action per day over the course of the 23-day event. Daily coverage includes a pre-race show followed by live morning race coverage, race action replays four times a day and an expanded primetime show (Versus).

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