Monday 11 October 2021 at 00h14

While she was commenting Paris-Tours on France Télévisions, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), the organisor of the Tour de France and starting next year also of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, announced that Marion Rousse becomes the director of this new feminin version of the race.

On RMC, Christian Prudhomme commented this announcement and also discussed the financial question of female races and thus necessarily the question about sponsors. And that gives us the occasion to talk about Le Coq Sportif as well .. or rather about its removal as a sponsor of the Tour, in a difficult financial context for the French brand.

Marion Rousse, director of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

If you are only a bit interested in cycling, you most probably know already that starting from 2022, the Tour de France Femmes will make its big comeback and if you followed the announcements these past few weeks and months, you must have understood already that the race has a title sponsor and that this is Zwift.

Today, A.S.O. announced that Marion Rousse was appointed director of the race of which the race route will be announced this Thursday, at the same time as the Tour de France 2022 for men race route (of which you might be following the rumours since a few weeks already now). It'll also be Marion Rousse who will announce the 8 stages of the first edition of the comeback of this race which will take place from 24 till 31 July 2022 and of which we already know that the first stage will finish on the Champs-Elysées in Paris the same day as the male race and also that one of the stage will go up the Planche des Belles Filles, like its male equivalent.


Who is Marion Rousse?

There's no doubt there's no need to present Marion Rousse anymore but let's just remind who she is: coming from a cycling family, Marion Rousse starts at 6 years old on the vélodrome in Roubaix and becomes a professional rider at 19 years old in 2011. The next year already she becomes the French Champion wearing the Vienne Futuroscope jersey and she gets a new contract with Lotto Belisol Ladies (becoming Lotto Soudal Ladies afterwards).

In parallel, Rousse starts a TV consultant career. After having been invited to an episode of Les Rois de la Pédale on Eurosport, its editor in chief Guillaume di Grazia offered her a consultant job for the Vuelta a España 2013. In 2015 she prematurely puts an end to her cycling career in order to concentrate solely on this reconversion and she continues this job with Eurosport until 2016.

In 2017 she moves to France Télévisions where she comments several different cycling races, also coming back to Eurosport starting 2019 to comment others.

On the Tour de France she also handed out the prize to the most competitive rider for Antargaz from 2014 till 2016, while in 2017 she remains the ambassador of the brand and member of the jury but no longer handing out the prize on the podium.

In 2019 she also joins the organisation of the Tour de la Provence and becomes its deputy director, a role which she also takes starting 2020 at the Tour de Savoie Mont-Blanc of the same organisor. And that was maybe something which helped in the decision of A.S.O. to offer her the role of director of the Tour de France Femme avec Zwift.

And on the love side, her heart is also in the cycling world because, after having been with Tony Gallopin since 2008 and after their mariage from 2014 till 2019, she's now with the double World Champion Julian Alaphilippe since 2020, with whom she got a young boy in June 2021, Nino.

Illustration photo of this article : © David Marvier, photo provided by A.S.O.

Marion Rousse commenting on this

As a reaction to this announcement, Marion Rousse commented: « When I was a little girl, I watched the Tour de France on television with admiration, and when I started my career, I suspected that I would never have the opportunity to race in it. So, of course, I was very proud to be asked to take charge of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, especially because we want to do our utmost to make it a dream for little girls to participate. Women's cycling has come a long way in recent years, partly thanks to A.S.O., but it still lacked a reference stage race with real media coverage. Now that I have accepted this mission, I intend to invest myself so that it becomes a ritual among the public... and for a long time because this is not about launching a race for two or three editions ».

Christian Prudhomme, director of the male Tour de France and more largely of cycling at A.S.O. commenting on this

For Christian Prudhomme the choice of Marion Rousse seemed evident: « If the event is to become the premier race for women's cycling, it was obvious to call on the best ambassador of this sport, known and appreciated by the general public as well as the experts. And her immediate enthusiasm to join us confirms the momentum behind the creation of the event ».

On RMC, Prudhomme completed these comments saying: "It was some sort of an evidence, her name immediately came up" before he reminded that A.S.O. can not organise this female race for a long time if it makes losses year on year and explained, in this context, the choice of a title sponsor shown in the name of the race, indicating at the same time that some usual sponsors of the male version of the race will also follow: "This is clearly an investment, female races lose money. This will most probably not be the case, at least I hope so, for the Tour de France Femmes. I don't think it will. That's why it's the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. This is not simply an advertisement. Next to traditional and loyal sponsors of the Tour like LCL, Škoda or Française des Jeux, Zwift is coming in as well. This will allow us to be even. [...] We can say that we invest for a few years but if we lose money every year, at some point that can not continue."

Le Coq Sportif leaving through the small door?

Le Coq SportifTalking of loyal sponsors of the Tour de France, you can see, by having a look at the partners page on that Le Coq Sportif is no longer shown there!

This French sports clothing brand made its comeback in 2005, thanks to a Swiss investor, Airesis, while it was still owned by Adidas, of which it has separated since. In 2012, Le Coq Sportif made its comeback on the Tour de France providing the distinctive jersey and dressing up the members of the organisation. In 2014, the brand also became a sponsor of the Etape du Tour.

Up to 2021, Le Coq Sportif thus became a loyal sponsor of the Tour de France, but most probably its sponsorship contract was up for renewal starting in 2022. But business is not going that well for the French brand and the Covid-19 crisis definitely didn't help it.

Indeed, as explained by Fashion Network, The brand, propriety since 2005 of the Swiss financial company Airesis, presided by Marc-Henri Beausire, saw its losses becoming more and more important. While its operational loss was 2 million euros in 2019, it became close to 10 million in 2020. Its net loss goes over 19 million against less than 10 million one year earlier.

The lock up led to shops selling its products being closed and with the decision of its logistic partner CEPL to close its warehouse, the company also had to stop its e-commerce activity (selling online) during this same period of time (mid-March till mid-May 2020) while the second lock-up only led to the shops being closed.

Still according to Fashion Network, The group explained having reduced its costs, such as its marketing contracts, right from April 2020, for an amount of 10.4 million euros, and requested a loan guarenteed by the state of 20.1 million euros and an innovation credit from the BPI for one million euros. However, since the contract with the Tour de France was still ongoing, the brand has not been able to reduce the amount being paid to the Tour because the race took place in 2020 (even though later than planned) and in 2021. Furthermore, the French brand signed a partnership to become the official supplier of the French athletes in view of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Even though the company announced good news in August 2021 (over 79% growth of its sales compared to 2020 at the end of June and a result up by 1.2 million euros comparing to the budget plans), this economic context might have been a difficulty too hard to come over to renew its contract with A.S.O.?

A.S.O. didn't confirm the end of the sponsorship by Le Coq Sportif, but the deletion of the logo on the partners page was probably not a mistake ...

door Thomas Vergouwen
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this publication is published in: Tour de France | Tour de France 2022 | Women's cycling | Marketing


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