The Tour de France is surely one of the world’s most gruelling races, during which 198 riders will cover 3,540km, visiting 4 countries over 3 weeks with just the occasional rest day. But is the race the best example of content marketing of all time?

I would suggest that it is.

To make my case, I would cite three key constituents of the race, which of themselves are not enough to satisfy my claim, but when combined together might just be enough.

Firstly, and most obviously, the race reaches a huge global audience each year. This year, the race organisers are expecting 12 million people to spectate from the roadside, who will be joined by armchair cycling enthusiasts watching 105 hours of live coverage in 190 countries, plus a digital audience of more than 36 million people consuming content produced in four languages*.

Impressive. But from a content marketing perspective, the use of Le Tour in tourism marketing is arguably more impressive. France is the most popular destination in the world for tourists, with 82.5 million visiting in 2016** and doesn’t Le Tour do its best to boost those numbers. If you’ve never watched a stage of Le Tour (and if you haven’t I can heartily recommend it) you have missed, as a best guess, about a third of the live coverage being dedicated to the scenery and history of the regions and Departments that the race visits.

le tour de france photo

Each of the 190 countries airing the race take their feed from the official race broadcaster and as such, all beam incredible footage of chateau, mountain ranges, river gorges, outrageously cute villages and some of the most picturesque countryside in the world to their viewers. In addition, each of the commentary teams is clearly feed information on historical or other points of interest, the names and locations of which are shown on screen. And if that’s not enough, both the Assemble Des Departments De France and the Ministere De L’Interiuer are both official race sponsors.

le tour de france photo

The whole production is part race and part ‘Wish You Were Here. It’s brilliant.

Finally, and most interestingly, at least from an historical perspective, is that Le Tour was started as a content marketing campaign by a French cycling magazine to boost its circulation.

The first Tour was stage in 1903, started by L’Auto a sports newspaper which was formed to compete with Le Velo, at the time, the largest daily sports newspaper in France. L’Auto was in effect losing the circulation battle and started Le Tour to create a unique content event which they could use to drive their circulation numbers above those of their rival.

It worked.

L’Auto’s circulation rose from 25,000 in 1902 to 250,000 by 1908, almost exclusively on the back of Le Tour. Le Velo was driven out of business in 1904.

So I rest my case. Le Tour – surely the most successful content marketing campaign of all time?

*www.letour.com

** French Foreign Ministry

Richard Spencer, CMO