We created this analysis to not only help our active lifestyle clients understand how people participate socially around the world's most prestigious road bicycle race, but it also provides informational value to sponsors outside of the sport who look at cycling as a marketing vehicle for their brands.
When brands consider investing in a global sports event like Le Tour de France, or a racing team participating in that sport, sponsorship can in fact pay dividends with proper activation.
What happens in france...
Europe is the epicenter of elite global road bicycle racing and it's no surprise that France, where the rubber hit the road, led the social conversations. But, ahem, Columbia? If we compared prior tours without Columbian general classification contendor, Nairo Quintana, we doubt South America would have shown a blip on social. But for 2016, Columbia had the third highest social conversations.
making the money work
Brands with the most mentions were sponsors who really activated at the Tour. Dimension Data partnered in a unique way with race organizer, ASO, to do some really unique things with data at the Tour and other WorldTour races this year. The company went beyond telemetry data to aid media outlets with more pinpoint, data-infused storytelling. And we love that.
Dimension Data also created the @letourdata Twitter account to further the rider data, and ultimately took the mention win from its visibility from both sponsoring a race team, strong participation with a truck and team of analysts at every Tour stage, social activations and just doing darn good with data. High five, Dimension Data.
AG2R wasn't highly active socially with only 20 posts, but like Dimension Data, the company's team sponsorship directly correlated to social mentions. But what about that massive peak for AG2R? This is where good old fashioned chance, hope and fans come in. AG2R gained huge exposure when Romain Bardet surprisingly took the stage 19 mountain top finish win on July 22 - something unforseen. Stroke of luck, underdog fan rallying, home country support...several factors all could have played a role into the team buzz that day. But his effort and resulting jump from fifth to second in the overall was the buzzworthy catalyst.
Finishing out the sponsor podium in third, mobile provider Orange had a solid content marketing strategy centering around illustrations and visuals pertaining to the Tour that the company shared socially.
Key insight: A more comprehensive and dynamic, enabling sponsorship and activation yielded the most mentions. Brands can be more effective if they look for ways to go above and beyond just writing a check to make their money work will maximize the investment.
how they roll
Bike manufacturers are the most essential equipment sponsor of a WorldTour racing team. In the 2016 Tour, six bike manufacturers held title or co-title sponsorships, far increasing their bicycle mentions. While Specialized sponsored three teams, the brand came in fifth in social mentions. Despite Chris Froome's Tour-winning bike being a Pinarello, the brand was just off the social conversation podium with the fourth most mentions. Giant, team co-title sponsor of Giant-Alpecin, was third in organic social mentions and Cannondale, another co-title sponsor with the Cannondale-Drapac team, just edged out Giant with 17 more mentions. BMC led the social media buzz however with over five times the mentions of the second most mentioned brand, Cannondale. Interestingly, Richie Porte, the highest finishing BMC team rider, only finished fifth in the general classification.
In terms of teams and bikes, while Movistar took the team general classification honor with two riders in the top 10, team bike sponsor Canyon was the seventh most mentioned brand.
Key insight: Title sponsorship could very well be the determining factor to bicycle manufacturer mentions as team mentions almost always accompany formal references to rider results in media channels - both traditional and social. When Richie Porte of the BMC team made ground in the standings, his team name was commonly referenced as were other bicycle manufacturer team mentions due to this common formal courtesy.
when you're hot, you're hot
For riders, just competing at the Tour is an honor. But winning a stage, or a general classification is a lifetime achievement. While team sponsors relish in additional TV exposure when teams and riders do well, there isn't a solid correlation between higher overall standings to social media mentions. There's a little something called clout that may get in the way.
Tour winner, Chris Froome also took the social mention win with 44,006 organic references. Totally irrelevant of Tour results, the maillot jaune was followed up by reigning UCI road racing world champion, Peter Sagan, who had approximately one quarter of the mentions - a huge deficit. Sagan secured the coveted green jersey distinction for the overall best sprinter in Le Tour as well as the most aggressive rider award, but from a fan's perspective was an animator in the race, feeding energy into the race spectacle and giving him plenty of reason to be buzz worthy. But his creativity spanned beyond competition as mentions likely increased from fan favoritism and his personal social media activity - including recent parody videos of Hollywood feature films. Speaking of fan favorites, Brit sprinting powerhouse and multi-time green jersey winner, Mark Cavendish, completed the social mention podium in third place, likely thanks to his four stage wins but he could have also had the comeback buzz factor working in his favor as many media wrote him off, but he remained dominant prior to dropping out to rest up for the Olympic Games in Rio.
With our analysis of Tour conversations showing that England had the second highest mentions by country, that also could have also boosted his mentions. There was a direct correlation between rider home countries originating the highest social mentions for most riders - including England most mentioning Froome and second place general classification finisher, Romain Bardet, receiving his highest mentions from France. Meanwhile, Sagan's highest mentions originated in France vs. only 19 mentions coming from his home country of Slovakia.