Every July, I tune into the Tour de France. It's a formidable enterprise, with hundreds of bicyclists straining up impossible hills and racing across hundreds of kilometres. Chasing behind them are hundreds more team managers, equipment cars, motorcycle cameras, helicopters and mobile TV studios. I dabble in mountain biking. I know the bike manufacturers, the equipment makers, even some of the personalities battling it out during each stage of the race. The leading racers have strong personalities, push big rings through the pain and endure horrible injuries: but any emotional attachment I may develop will eventually end in marketer's wishes going unfulfilled.
Watching the Tour, you cannot help but be impressed by the marketing strategy put into the event. There are logos, banners, flags, posters, bike stickers, helmet decals, emblazoned shirts, personalized sweaters, and silkscreened bicycling caps everywhere. Every inch of useable space is exploited.
Nevertheless, I am completely disconnected from the marketing juggernaut created to support the Tour. Race organizers boast of the millions of viewers watching the race in dozens upon dozens of countries, but what's the accuracy of the marketing efforts?
Unfortunately, Coke's sponsorship didn't win a convert in the McKay family - I was hooked after my first happy meal at McD's. I admire the team assembled under the sponsorship of the US Postal Service, but I can't use their mail service.
I recognize some of the French, Italian and German brand names splashed across the backs of the favoured riders, but I will have no opportunity to run down to the store and pick up some Davitamon. I don't need a Phonak hearing aid.
Still - I do recognize Sodexho - and remember the regrettable menu selections made by the "chefs" they had working in my university cafeteria.