Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you can’t live in Yorkshire and have failed to notice that the Tour de France’s Grand Depart will soon wind its way through our beautiful home county. As one of the world’s biggest sporting events, it’s a great achievement on tourist board Welcome to Yorkshire’s part to have secured it – and one that’s undoubtedly worth shouting about.

But even so, brand ‘Le Tour Yorkshire’ seems to have taken on a life – and a personality – of its own over the last year or more, infiltrating all areas of Yorkshire life and making itself impossible to ignore. Although traditional marketing and advertising techniques have been employed, the buzz created around it has largely been down to highly sophisticated engagement and dialogue with the people of and potential visitors to Yorkshire across a variety of platforms, and social media has played a huge role in keeping it ‘front of mind’.

In a world where we are bombarded with content from all angles every day and stories become old news in the time it takes them to slip down our Twitter feeds, how has Welcome to Yorkshire maintained so much interest in the Tour de France in a build up to it that has been as epic as the race itself?

Making content king (of the road)!

The digital age has changed everything: content can be used and maximised in ways that it couldn’t have been five years ago. The user base of social media has increased, and become more representative of society; better cameras on mobile phones have allowed anyone to take good quality photos and share them online; and Twitter networking hours have allowed organisations like Le Tour Yorkshire to directly connect with digitally-savvy businesses. All their online activity, combined with the quirky offline stunts such as the ‘other’ Grand Départ, and the yellow bikes scattered artfully across the route, have been part of an integrated, multi-media strategy.

Getting everyone on their bikes

Learning from the campaign around the London Olympics, Welcome to Yorkshire has worked to ensure that the Grand Depart is not just a spectator sport. In reaching out to local communities both online and offline to increase enthusiasm for two-wheeled pursuits, the campaign has taken on a viral nature by getting everyone involved and creating their own content. If you don’t believe us, check out their Twitter account – a large proportion of the content they share is retweets from local people and businesses who are doing their bit.



Avoiding content fatigue

To avoid it becoming an uphill struggle, the Welcome to Yorkshire team have rationed their Le Tour content to give the campaign longevity in the lead up to the event. Planning for a long-term campaign can be difficult, and a common mistake is getting everything interesting that you have to say out there at the beginning. By holding back information at first they have been able to meticulously plan its gradual release, making sure that Le Tour has a presence at every key date in the lead up to the 5th July 2014.

Ensuring it’s the winning, not the taking part that counts

With a real focus on outcomes over outputs, the Le Tour Yorkshire campaign has been very much tied to Welcome to Yorkshire’s key objective to increase tourism from outside the region. With visitor numbers up 16% and the length of stay up 15%, we think it’s safe to say that Le Tour Yorkshire has been a significant factor in their success, giving them something topical to talk about on a world stage. What better way to showcase Yorkshire’s hidden gems than get the world’s biggest bike ride to jaunt right through the middle of its most beautiful spots?!

Playing a long game – it’s up hill from here!

The challenge now will be maintaining the buzz after the Tour De France leaves Yorkshire, but it’s no surprise after such a successful digital communications campaign that the man behind the Le Tour Yorkshire bid is acutely aware of this. In Gary Verity’s words:

“This is a 10 year project for the county and we need to seize the moment in the afterglow of the race to really hammer home why Yorkshire will be a European capital of cycling one day.”

There is a lot that all brands could learn from a campaign like this and it is good to see what a huge part digital and social media have had to play both in terms of strengthening local buy-in and in terms of putting Yorkshire on an international stage.