A Brand Legacy for Yorkshire’s Tour
It’s now less than 100 days until the Grand Départ of the Tour de France…. in Yorkshire. There has been widespread support for Le Tour, and it will undoubtedly do much for the region’s tourism and hospitality businesses, b&b’s and tearooms throughout the county. But what about those not directly connected to tourism, or sport?
I attended the annual tourism conference where the bid was first announced in 2012, at the York Barbican Theatre. Of the businesses and delegates who attended that day, not many would have imagined we’d be sitting at the corresponding event two years later, about to welcome some of the best athletes in the world to our hills and dales.
At Y14, Welcome to Yorkshire’s self styled ‘Tour de Force’ in the Harrogate International Centre, it was clear that the aspiration was to sell brand Yorkshire to the world. The great and the good of the business community were there, as were chief executives from the major local authorities on the route. The organisers even managed to wheel out Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to extoll the virtues of the race, whilst neatly sidestepping questions about additional funding.
It is clear that whilst the Tour’s Grand Départ will be a truly Yorkshire event, and a chance to showcase the region to the masses, some businesses and business commentators are sceptical about its direct value, especially outside of the tourism sector.
Speaking to one entrepreneur, who has set up a 180 pitch campsite on the route, he was excited, but also nervous about securing return on his investment. Larger corporate players were also happy with the association, but, in some instances, struggled to articulate how their involvement and sponsorship fitted in to the bigger picture and their wider business strategy.
The business community is getting involved in the event, to varying degrees. Organisers have already announced local institutions such as Taylors of Harrogate and the Yorkshire Building Society, as partners. Meanwhile, Asda is aiming to do for Le Tour what McDonalds did for the 2012 Olympics, sponsoring and training 12,000 ‘Tour Makers’. It is also claimed that Yorkshire Water, one of the region’s biggest businesses, has committed £500,000 to the cultural and artistic celebrations leading up to the big weekend in July. This is one particular example, where business and brand ambition have met in a seemingly natural and advantageous way.
Speaking to one well-respected journalist earlier this week, however, he had sensed a business bubble growing around the tour, and predicted an inevitable vacuum after the event left these shores, which leads us to the question of legacy. The success of Yorkshire’s Grand Départ won’t be judged in July, or this summer – but on what it does for brand Yorkshire in the coming years. If the event can put the region firmly on the international map, that is where the true value for business lies.
Welcome to Yorkshire have always been very clear about their ambitious legacy plans, it being one of the key reasons they won the bid. In promising ‘The Grandest of Grand Départ’s’ they have stated an ambition for Yorkshire to become the cycling capital of Europe. The Belgians and French might have something to say about that, but ambition, in many cases, breeds success. As an organisation, strategy has always been key – a lesson for others to follow. Encouragingly, they have never seen this event as a means to an end, but as the catalyst for something that will be of benefit to stakeholders across the region.
The event’s closing comments came from Yorkshire’s marketeer in chief, the inimitable Gary Verity: “The tour is the start of the journey, not the end. When Yorkshire works together, we can achieve great things.” Which is perhaps a message we can all learn from.
Whilst the business fit with Le Tour might not be obvious for every company in the region, we should all celebrate success together and enjoy the profile given to Yorkshire through this international event.