SMathieu van der Poel wore the overall leader’s yellow jersey for six days last year in the Tour de France. Because the 27-year-old professional cyclist is quite successful and has a lot of fans because of his entertaining nature, the Dutchman not only makes his team very happy. “The value of the sponsoring is very good at the moment,” says Eduard R. Dörrenberg, the managing partner of the Bielefeld family company Dr. Wolff, which, with its hair care brands Alpecin and Plantur, lends its name to both a men’s and a women’s cycling team as a sponsor. “The transmission times are increasing, we think it’s worth it,” says Dörrenberg.
When the 109th edition of the world’s most important cycling race begins on Friday, Alpecin rider van der Poel should attract attention again. Other German companies such as the Bavarian cooktop manufacturer Bora and the Black Forest bathroom fittings company Hansgrohe will also collect the majority of the marketing equivalent for their millions in support of the cycling team in the next three weeks, although they even got one a few weeks ago with the Giro d’Italia won the three grand tours.
The tour beats other bike races by far
As one of the biggest sporting events in the world behind the soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games, the Tour de France not only trumps other sports on a global scale, but also leaves the other cycling races far behind in terms of attention. “Cycling is changing,” says Felix Appelfeller, “Head of Sponsoring” at the Jung von Matt Sports agency. In the corona pandemic, cycling has generally become more popular, and the importance of cycling goes far beyond TV broadcasts. “Many individual athletes have made themselves less dependent on sporting success and have built up a large reach through their own digital channels,” says Appelfeller, whose agency not only advises companies, but also rights holders or associations on how best to bring different sports and sponsorship together.
The younger target groups in particular obtain information primarily via the social media channels of the teams and riders – there a new generation of athletes gives much more insight into life as a professional cyclist and everyday training. As a result, young viewers are less likely to have the negative image that many Germans had at the beginning of the millennium as a result of the doping cases. “Due to the generally increased interest in cycling, digitization and the so-called ‘clean generation’ around Rick Zabel and Nils Politt, cycling is becoming a growing and increasingly exciting sponsorship environment,” says Appelfeller. The German sprinter Rick Zabel reaches more than a hundred thousand followers with his own podcast and posts on Instagram. Although he is much less successful in sports than his father Erik was, he still advertises for several brands because of his function as a kind of “bike influencer”.
Most of the money goes into football
However, football is still by far the broadest field in terms of investments, nothing can match it in Europe. The partnership between FC Barcelona and music streaming market leader Spotify underlines how much money can flow here. Created for an initial period of four years, the Swedes’ lettering should adorn the jerseys of the men’s and women’s teams from the coming season. Even the venerable stadium “Camp Nou” gets the Spotify addition. The heavily indebted top club should receive more than 300 million euros for this. Spotify is counting on the deal and joint projects to attract new customers from Barça’s huge following. There are very few partners of this size and reach, it said in March when the deal was announced.
That’s undoubtedly true. “But we also tell our customers that football isn’t always the answer,” says Appelfeller. “Due to the breadth of the fan base, you have to deal with extreme wastage. In this way you can potentially reach almost everyone, but not necessarily the core target group efficiently.” In addition, there are of course hundreds of competing companies buzzing around in football. “In the end, however, it is above all important for brands to show their attitude. Regardless of the sport, fans are increasingly demanding that sponsors position themselves authentically on socially relevant issues,” says Appelfeller. At the Tour de France, some teams and thus also their sponsors are trying to do this with advertising for equality, since this year is the first time in 13 years that a French national tour will also take place for women. The cycling circus is also hoping for a major advertising effect beyond the normal fans from a Netflix series, which is to be recorded for the first time on this tour in the style of the Formula 1 documentation “Drive to Survive”.
The pinnacle of motorsport has benefited enormously from the series – especially with regard to the younger target group and the US market. Stefano Domenicali, the top Formula 1 official, spoke of a “game changer” to the FAS that not all drivers are happy with the series – world champion Max Verstappen no longer speaks to the Netflix team because the makers in the Don’t always take the sense of the drama with the realistic depiction of the events quite so precisely – for free. The next season is already in the works.