Planning, Execution and the Ups & Downs: The Tour De France v Digital Strategy

The 2017 Tour de France has seen its fair share of incident since the riders first set off on the road in Dusseldorf.   Competing in the most gruelling of sporting events, 198 riders rolled out with the aim of completing 3,521km across some of Europe's most challenging terrain.  

As a visual spectacle, the Tour is stunning.  As a dedicated Francophile, my Grandad would religiously watch every stage and that got me hooked.  In the early years of watching, I must admit I had no idea what was going on but even for the cycling novice, you couldn’t fail to be in awe of what these riders were putting themselves through on a daily basis and the stories that they were creating.

For each of the 22 starting teams, it wasn't just a case of rocking up on July 3 with your best riders and going for it.  There would have been many months of careful planning. When the tour route is announced, things really kick up a gear.  Each team will be assessing the situation.  Which riders suit which stage?  What are the competitors thinking? Who is on form? And what opportunity is there?   

Tour de France

Gruelling Road Cycle Race :: Joined Up Marketing Strategy

The parallel to delivering a sound marketing strategy is important.  Before commencing on your marketing master plan, understanding your organisation's environment is absolutely key and should be considered a very first step.  What resource do you have internally? What skills are you missing?  Is your product or service competitive and where do you hold an advantage? What is happening in the wider market place and what budgets do you have available? Critically what solutions are in place to provide data?  A simple SWOT analysis could be enough here but you should not be planning anything without a sound understanding of your operation both internally and externally.  

With the route decided, it’s time for the teams to set their objectives. At the tour, there is more than just the Yellow Jersey at stake. Realistically there are only a handful of teams that could achieve overall victory ,which requires the strongest all-rounder (leader) supported by a strong team of climbers and roleurs (carry and protect the leader on the log flat days). The Green Jersey will be the focus for those that have strong sprinters in their ranks while others may be looking at stage wins.  For some of the newer teams, it could be as simple as getting in the breakaway each day to ensure that their sponsors get maximum TV time.  

A marketing plan without realistic objectives and targets is a waste of time.  Only through a sound understanding of where you are as a business, can these be set but without them, you are executing and optimising without direction and will never be able to determine success. Improving your product's brand awareness could be a simple objective with the target of improving brand search volume. Alternatively, you may be looking at revenue growth through customer acquisition knowing that you are maximising revenues out of your existing base. 

Teams & Tactics

For Team Sky, the objective is very clear. When the Peleton does its customary procession around the streets of Paris, they want the Yellow Jersey to be riding on the shoulders of Chris Froome. That is success and anything else is failure.  To achieve this, the team would have looked at the riders at their disposal, delivered a race schedule that prepared them and finally delivered a team that will be able to handle the massive mountain stages, deliver on the time trials and hold their own on the long flat stages.  They will know exactly which stages offer the best opportunity to put time into their rivals and they will be predicting when the other General Classification teams such as Movistar, BMC and Astana will look to attack them.  Sky will be ready and each team member will know their role when it comes down to the battle.  

Selecting the right tactics and a calendar for delivery to achieve your objectives seems like a pretty obvious statement but all too often, this is not happening.  Within the digital space, you have so many ways to spend your budget that “gets in front of your target audience, at the right time and on the right device”.   Unfortunately, they don’t all have the same response and it is important to get a good understanding of what each channel is there for, realistically what can be achieved within your budget and within your technical framework.  If you aren’t able to accurately measure the true value of a display campaign, it can quickly become a money pit.  If you are looking purely at direct response, delivering customers at a strict cost per acquisition, then you must select channels that will meet this goal.  Your situational analysis will stand you in good stead at this point as you can deliver core brand messaging and a sound promotional strategy to get the right results.  

Tour de France 2

Playing To Your Strengths

When the riders realised that there was going to be rain in the time trial set for stage one, it would have been seen as a problem for some and a leveller for others. The aim of a time trial is to go as hard as you for as long as you can.  When the roads are wet, hurtling around the corners at break neck speeds is dangerous and risky.  For the German, Tony Martin who’s Katusha team would have been targeting this stage as a victory the effect of this rain was devastating.  For Movistar it was even worse as Valverde, one of the most experienced riders in the Peloton, crashed and broke his kneecap.  To lose such an influential and tactically astute rider so early will have dealt a real blow to team leader Quintana, and the team would have had to take stock and re-think how they might approach each stage.  On stage 12, Things did not go to plan for Froome, with his team driving hard all day to set him up for a stage victory, he came short on the final climb which was an opportunity seized by Aru to put some seconds into him and claim the overall lead.

Digital channels are measurable.  They can be optimised, ramped up or stopped completely.  The landscape is also constantly changing and as you embark upon your campaign(s) it is critical to keep measuring, adjusting and improving. Working with a fluid budget across channels allows you to take opportunities that you might not have expected and adjust where things might not have gone to plan.  Working in competitive markets means that your rivals are trying to beat you to the consumer. This is why you should not be afraid to test new opportunities and whether they work or not, it will give you valuable data sets that can be useful for ongoing optimisation.   

To win in digital, you must be prepared, you need to execute with discipline while also being attentive, measured, adaptable and daring.  If Team Sky and Chris Froome manage to retain the Yellow Jersey in 2017, they will have delivered on all of these attributes and victory will be thoroughly deserved.

If you want to achieve digital victory for your brand with a comprehensive strategy, get in touch with the digital marketing athletes at Digital Fuel! 


Image Credits Jean-Michel Sanglerat Charel Irrthum

Author: Digital Fuel

Words by the Digital Fuel team members