There was a big bike race going off in Yorkshire over the weekend, but in some circles, it was a bit like Voldemort or Macbeth – you couldn't say its name. Unlike the fictional characters though, there was no mystical reasoning at all – it was all down to the branding.
Much like the London Olympics, Le Tour is always keen to keep on top of who's able to use the name of the event or contractions like TdF. Generally speaking, if you're using them for editorial reasons – provided that you don't spam the text with those phrases in the hope of improving your Serp ranking – you should be OK.However, it's businesses seeking to promote themselves in relation to the world's most famous bike race that need to be more careful. Not only are you forbidden from using the wording relating to it, route maps, logos and potentially photos of famous cyclists could be big no-nos as well.
A detour around the rules
So how do you get around it? I may be a bit biased, as I've lived here for over seven years, but Yorkshire folk are nothing but resourceful, so I've been surrounded by businesses and organisations relating themselves to Le Tour without actually relating themselves to Le Tour… if you get what I mean.
The main way to get around it seems to be the colour yellow – the hue of the famous jersey sported by the overall leader of the race. In Leeds alone, we've had yellow phone boxes, statues with yellow jumpers knitted for them and mile upon mile of yellow bunting – laid end-to-end, it's the same length as the entirety of the Yorkshire stages of the race (not really, but it sounds good).
Francophilia is another great way of promoting this bastion of Frenchness without stepping on the toes of the official sponsors. Among all the berets and croissants, my favourite example has been The Light shopping centre across the road from our Leeds office – it's rebranded itself as La Lumiere (in yellow, natch), which is quite a commitment, but if it works for Google and its doodles, then why not?
Y for yellow, Y for Yorkshire
All the brand protection enjoyed by Le Tour helps to maintain the prestige of being associated with it and it generally works – you don't end up with shoddy merchandise being sold out of the backs of vans, for instance. While that maintains the image of the race, it doesn't necessarily enhance it – however, one brand that's been heightened massively by its association with Chris Froome et al is Yorkshire itself.
The aerial shots of God's own country were the stuff of dreams for Welcome to Yorkshire, especially with the weather being as great as it was over the weekend. It's not all dark, satanic mills up here you know – the rolling countryside is breathtaking, many of the town centres wouldn't look out of place in the south and the historical monuments are, frankly, monumental – even if some of the French translations jarred a bit (Chateau du Skipton, anyone?)
As I suggested earlier though, it's Yorkshire folk themselves who make the county what it is as much as any of the place itself. Whether you're talking about the impromptu art installations in fields and around villages, or just the sheer amount of people who came out for the Grand Depart and the first two stages (some 2.5 million in total), the county's residents have done it proud.
While the Tour de France may have maintained its brand by being picky about who could use it and where, Yorkshire and its people have magnified its own image in the eyes of a worldwide audience of 3.5 billion people.