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Business

Tour de France Is a Financial Tour de Force

The Tour de France attracts over 15 million spectators to the streets with a further billion happy to watch at home. No wonder it's become one of the sporting world's biggest businesses.

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The Tour de France: Brought to you by Credit Lyonnaise, PMU, Champion, Nike, Fiat...

It’s unlikely that Maurice Garin could have envisaged how the Tour de France would change in the hundred years that followed his victory back in 1903.

The French rider, known as “The Chimney Sweep,” was the first-ever winner of the world’s most famous cycling race when the field consisted of just 60 riders who rode through the night in pursuit of the prize. Now, in its centenary year, the Tour boasts 22 teams, totaling 198 riders in a race that dwarfs the original 2,500 kilometer race by pushing the athletes to go a further 850.

But it’s not only the sheer size of the modern Tour which would astound Garin these days. The Tour de France has developed into more than just a sporting spectacle over the last hundred years. The Tour de France is now one of the most lucrative and expensive events in terms of business and finance with a staggering array of sponsors, partners, merchandisers and suppliers all paying for the privilege of being associated with the Tour.

24 sponsors vie for audience of 1 billion

4. Etappe Tour de France Erich Zabel mit grünen Trikot

Erik Zabel of Germany, the 2002 King of the Mountains.

The Amaury Sport Organization, the tour's official organizer, makes 70 percent of its €110 million annual turnover from cycling. The Tour de France in turn makes up between 70 and 80 percent of its total cycling turnover every year. Most of the money comes from the television rights and the advertising revenue that is plowed into the Tour by the army of 24 associated businesses that pay to have their logos beamed into the homes of over 1 billion people worldwide.

It appears to be money well spent. The organizers claim that for every euro invested in the Tour de France, a sponsor is guaranteed ten back. That goes some way to explain the masses of T-shirts, hats and umbrellas that color the 20 stages of the Tour, sporting logos ranging from those of the main sponsors to official partners. Considering the global reach of the Tour, sponsorship in any capacity is an attractive proposition for many businesses. But as in any serious venture, the sponsors must reflect the event’s standing.

“You can’t just come to us and say ‘I have a product, I want to sell that product’,” said Daniel Bal, the Tour’s deputy director. “If it works with our product, our logo and our colors, then we have a deal and we can work together.”

Jerseys are most sought after items

The most sought after items for sponsorship have been firmly in the hands of the giants of cycling patronage in France for many years. The jerseys -- awarded to the winners of the most-prestigious stages, the best newcomer and the overall Tour winner -- have long been coveted as the most lucrative vehicles for publicity hungry institutions.

Tour de France Lance Armstrong und Laurent Jalabert

My sponsor pays more money than your sponsor.

The fabled Yellow jersey of the overall victor has been sponsored by French bank Crédit Lyonnais since 1987, while the Green jersey, awarded to the best sprinter, has been the reserve of the PMU, France’s horse racing association, for the past 13 years. The best young rider of the Tour will be presented with the White jersey, now back in the hands of the Conseil général des Hauts-de-Seine social help organization after a ten year gap.

Only the King of the Mountains’ Polka Dot jersey has been wrestled away by a new sponsor. Supermarket chain Champion will now be paying for the privilege to be on the winner’s podium after the grueling stages in the Alps

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