OLN Spins Out $20M Tour de France Campaign


Outdoor Life Network will roll out a $20 million marketing campaign starting Tuesday to hype its coverage of the Tour de France, which runs from July 3 to July 25, as American Lance Armstrong chases a record-breaking sixth consecutive championship.

OLN president Gavin Harvey said the Comcast Corp.-owned network will rely on its 340 hours of live and taped race coverage to market the launch of several new series, including a new Biography-style program, a countdown show focusing on topics such as the “top 10 survival stories” and reality shows.

“The strategy is not to just have a great Tour and drive a lot of ratings, but to use it as a platform to launch a new generation of shows that will bring in male viewers that have an interest in outdoor sports,” Harvey said.

OLN’s strategy is similar to the approach the broadcast networks have used to launch new shows with heavy promotions running during major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl or the World Series.

Harvey estimated the value of the marketing push for the campaign, called “The Cyclism,” at about $20 million. The multimedia effort includes a “substantial” buy of cable operators’ cross-channel spot inventory; radio and print ads; billboards in key markets like Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia; and a public-relations effort, according to Harvey.

The Tour de France is OLN’s most valuable programming property. Last year, coverage averaged a 1.6 household cume rating and some 1.2 million viewers for race action.

OLN, which now counts 56 million subscribers, expects the marketing push and its increased distribution over last year, will help it reach 2 million viewers daily with this year’s race.

Typically, OLN averages between a 0.1 and 0.2 in primetime.

Harvey said he also expects that viewers will be drawn to the story of Armstrong’s quest for a record sixth consecutive win. OLN’s Tour de France TV rights run “at least” through 2007, he said.

OLN Tour de France viewers, though, will have to wade their way through some 24 minutes per hour of advertising and promotion, including 18 for national ads and three for local cable avails.

OLN also will devote three minutes per hour to trumpet its new programs.

Harvey said OLN hopes to attract non-cycling fans to its coverage of the famous race with “The Cyclism” campaign.

In July, the network will dedicate two and a half hours in primetime to coverage it expects will appeal to a wide audience, many of whom will not be familiar with the intricacies of cycling.

“For primetime, we are going to make it a more mainstream type of show — the type you see in the Olympics,” Harvey said.

The series, on which the network is teaming with editors from the genre title, is being billed as the ultimate guide and crib sheet for the best of adventure athletes and travel destinations.

The fast-paced countdown show will be hosted by outdoor adventurer Tyler Harcott.

OLN’s new programming lineup includes Outdoor Magazine’s Ultimate Top 10, which will debut July 3. Later that month, OLN will launch a still unnamed biography series that will feature eye-catching celebrities such as volleyball player Gabrielle Reece and surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm last year in a shark attack.