The biggest race in the history of women’s cycling, The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift began in Paris on this past Sunday, the 24th of July 2022. For eight days, top female cycling athletes from all over the world ride over the stunning streets of France, taking on eight stages of increasing difficulty.
The Tour de France is the most prestigious cycling event in the world and attracts the attention of top brands and media outlets. Now, the Tour de France Femmes will be a moment for the history books, as well, and brands have been keen to get in on the action.
But which brands? Let’s take a look.
Why Are Brands Interested in the Tour de France Femmes?
We reported last year on how women’s sports represent an exciting new opportunity for brands. Women’s sport is set to generate more than £1bn per year by 2030, but brands have been slow to recognize the potential — with only 0.4% of sponsorship dollars going to women’s sports and female athletes.
In fact, an official women’s Tour de France was launched in 1984 but after two years it was scrapped, with the organizers citing a lack of commercial and media interest. Luckily, this seems to be turning around and female athletes are now finally starting to get the recognition they deserve.
Sponsoring women’s sporting events, teams, and individual athletes is beneficial for brands for several reasons. Firstly, there’s the newsworthiness factor. Previously, women only had the one-day La Course by Le Tour de France. Stepping up to an 8-day race is new, exciting, and sure to drive buzz among media outlets and the general public.
Supporting women’s sports shows that a brand is diverse and forward-thinking. Sponsoring or even talking about the event on social media is a good way to start a dialog and improve brand perception. Customers today, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, prefer to buy from businesses that share their values — and are quick to shun brands that don’t meet their moral standards. Brands need to make it clear where they stand on key issues. Supporting women’s sports is an ideal way to demonstrate their commitment to female empowerment and women’s rights.
Lastly, brands are probably hoping that supporting the Tour de France will enable them to tap into new audiences. The Tour de France already attracts millions of spectators and billions of TV viewers, but the women’s version is likely to attract new viewers with different demographics — most likely younger, educated, urban, and slanting female.
Let’s explore how brands are supporting the Tour de France Femmes and how the partnership is benefiting their brand.
Indoor-training app Zwift is the title sponsor, so the official name of the event is Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. This gives the company a significant boost in terms of brand awareness because their company name is mentioned every time the event is talked about.
As part of a four-year deal with ASO, Zwift is the presenting partner of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. This gives the “fitness company born from gaming” exclusive rights to create insider content around the event under the hashtag #NEWRULES. The collaboration seems to be a perfect fit for the brand, considering Zwift’s history of championing women’s racing.
The new campaign depicts strong female cyclists in their element — which is a source of inspiration for young women and girls and sends a clear message to the whole world: Women are strong, successful, and can do anything.
Zwift is a longtime supporter of the Tour de France, helping to set up the pandemic-induced Virtual Tour de France in 2020, where male and female cyclists competed across equal distances. The success of the Virtual Tour de France 2020 inspired the brand to support the Tour de France Femmes — with Kate Veronneau, Zwift’s director of content and women’s strategy, saying:
“What we saw with that was that people were just as excited to watch women’s cycling, that sponsors were just as excited to get behind it, and that the women were incredibly appreciative and really took advantage of the opportunity.”
ASO and Zwift clearly have high hopes for their partnership and the future of the race, and it’s an exciting opportunity for Zwift to use its platform to create compelling content about special moments of the races and the women involved — while also growing its own subscriber base.
Zwift is committed to Democratizing Cycling and Inclusiveness, especially for those who have been made to feel less than. Cheers to 4 years with Tour de France Femmes https://t.co/tc7I2oHj33 #TourdeFrance #zwift #USWNT #TourdeFranceFemmes #tourdefrance2022 @k_armstrong— yuchiang cheng (@YuChiang) October 14, 2021
Women’s cycling brand Liv is one of the event’s main sponsors. Liv creates bicycles and gear for women to perform at the highest level and claims to be the only comprehensive cycling brand in the world dedicated solely to women. Founded in 2008, Liv aims to empower all cyclists from beginners to star athletes.
Liv is focused on building a strong online presence and community, aiming to be the number one resource for female cyclists around the world. On their website, they regularly share resources about improving riding skills, bike maintenance, nutrition, travel, and other cycling-related topics.
Bonnie Tu, Liv founder and Giant Group chairperson, said:
"Since Liv was founded, our goal has always been to help advance women's participation in cycling, so sponsoring the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift was a natural extension of our mission. Giving women the chance to compete in the most prestigious race in road cycling shows young girls they too can achieve their dreams and aspire to compete at cycling's highest level—something Liv has been committed to since day one."
Bonnie Tu is a global pioneer in women's cycling and will be on stage to help present the award to the best young rider at the end of the first stage, and she will even participate in the ProAm event on July 27th.
Car brand Skoda is an official sponsor of the Tour de France for the 19th year in a row and has long been a proponent of women’s participation.
As early as 2017, Skoda was looking for a way to prove its long-term commitment to cycling and began to campaign for women to be able to take part, even supporting the 13 women who unofficially took part in the Tour de France in 2018, riding the same courses one day before the men.
Source: Prince & Sesh
The Skoda brand is a big part of the competition and plays a key role in ensuring the security of the races, such as carrying out breakdown assistance. This year, Skoda has provided 250 support and service vehicles — including the electric model ŠKODA ENYAQ iV for Tour Director Christian Prudhomme to use as a command vehicle (‘Red Car’) on 16 of the 21 stages.
This is a great opportunity for Skoda to generate visibility for its vehicles — while also aligning its brand with positive brand values such as diversity and inclusivity.
Will your brand be supporting the Tour de France Femmes? Not every brand has the opportunity, or the advertising dollars, to become an official sponsor, but the event has many unofficial supporters in the form of smaller yet diverse and forward-thinking brands.
Duolingo, Mapbox, and Thomson Biketours, just to name a few, posted about it on Instagram. While this won’t be as impactful as being, say, the title sponsor who is directly associated with the event, it is an effective and affordable way to show your target audience that you support female empowerment.