Update: This article incorrectly listed Adidas as a Tour de France sponsor. The article has since been updated — Adidas provided equipment to Team Sky and did not sponsor the team.
Teams in the cycling world’s most prestigious race are struggling with a loss of sponsorship deals after drug scandals took a toll on the sport’s image. Several leading teams in the Tour de France – an important event on the cycling world’s calendar – is struggling to attract sponsors that were previously queuing up to support the event.
The event, which formerly attracted large international sponsors, is now primarily supported by companies that focus on European markets and cycling products. The top thirty sponsors of 2012 were largely cycling-focused companies, with just seven large international brands sponsoring cycling teams or special events.
Recent sponsors have included the French national lottery, which sponsored its own cycling team, and Dutch financial firm Rabobank. The financial group, which was an important Tour sponsor in 2012, dropped its support for the event this year as the seemingly endless drug scandals took their toll on professional cycling’s image.
The cycling world has been turned upside down in recent years by a series of large drug scandals. Lance Armstrong, former Tour de France champion and evangelist for the sport, confessed to long-term illegal steroid use on Oprah to an audience of over 4.3 million people, striking a lasting blow to cycling’s ‘clean’ credibility.
Armstrong’s success transformed the Tour de France from a small event that rarely achieved mainstream success outside of Western Europe into an international event that attracted global attention. His fall, many believe, took the Tour’s largest sources of financing with it.
The upside, however, is that companies involved in the tour are enjoying a greater level of commercial success than ever before. With team sponsorships available for as little as $1.5 million per season, brands such as Sky and RadioShack are enjoying over $150 million in television exposure through the Tour’s extensive media coverage.