This year, 2011, the caravan, a 45-minute long procession, consists of :
- 160 crazy vehicles
- 600 people
- 33 brand names
- 16 million freebies
- 12 gendarmes
- 4 traffic regulator motorcyclists
- 3 medical cars
A couple of other facts. Each advertiser invests between €200,000 to € 500,000. And 39% of spectators only come to see the caravan!
The idea of the publicity caravan began in 1930. It was actually the idea of Paul Thévenin, publicity manager for Menier chocolate. He put his proposal to Henri Desgrange, tour organiser, who immediately say a good way of raising money for his sporting spectacle. In that first year, Menier gave out chocolate bars and half a million policeman’s hats printed with the company name. The Vache Qui Rit was another of the first advertisers who joined in.
At one time anything went. There used to be motorcycle acrobatics and accordionists on vehicle rooftops but such excesses have been curbed these days in the interests of health and safety! However, the vehicles pass by at speeds of up to 60 kmph and some of the stuff they throw out is fairly solid. We’ve come home with bruises on our shins before now as packs of cards or samples of sausage have thwacked into them. But no pain, no gain.
People soon cottoned on to this nice idea of getting a free gift from someone passing by in a decorated vehicle, and more spectators come out to see the Tour de France. These days it’s an integral part of the Tour. It helps pass the long wait for the cyclists, and who doesn’t like getting something for nothing. I totted up the potential savings from coupons I got, and they come to €121,50 if I use them all. And that’s on top of all the hats, bags, keyrings, notebooks, food samples, newspapers, pens, bookmarks and silly stuff we got. Pas mal!
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