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Ongoing innovation – how the Tour de France still gets it right after 115 years


Innovation and digital transformation

The first Tour de France was held in 1903 and covered by the then-sponsor, L’Auto newspaper. By 2017, the TV broadcast reached 12 million fans on average, per stage, in 190 countries.

To stay in business for 115 years, you need more than a strong global brand.

Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), organisers of the Tour de France, started their digital transformation journey in 1995 with the launch of the official race website. Twenty years later, the race has 6.5 million fans on social media and countless more in a global digital ecosystem.

As the official technology partner of the Tour de France since 2015, we’ve been a part of A.S.O.’s journey for the last four years.

This year, we’re looking forward to further evolution in five key areas of innovation.

Using digital channels to grow a TV audience

Innovations in broadcasting

Seeing a shift in how people were consuming news and information, A.S.O. recognised an opportunity to take the broadcasting of the Tour de France in a more diversified direction by complementing the live TV broadcast with real-time data, made available on various digital platforms. The objective was to attract a younger, social-media-savvy audience while giving established fans the chance to engage with the race in new ways.

Much of this strategy hinged on collecting, analysing, and using live data from tracking devices to give fans greater insights into what was happening in the race. In 2015, data on speeds, distance between riders, and gradients was converted into charts and graphics to tell richer stories about the race.

Since then, year on year, we’ve enhanced the data available to the television production team, allowing them to provide fans with more critical race information.

This year, Tour de France television broadcasts will feature some of the stats we’ll generate for the @letourdata Twitter feed, while data will be used to enhance replays of key events during the race and provide 3D maps showing the positions of the key riders. A.S.O. will also link data insights used during the broadcast with the @letourdata tag to encourage cross pollination across broadcast, digital channels, and social media.

By bringing data into the viewing experience of the Tour de France, A.S.O. brings viewers closer to the race

Digital is more than data

Innovating with data

A.S.O. have continued moving forward with using data to tell stories. Their philosophy isn’t to overwhelm viewers with statistics, but to make the right data available at the right time and tailor it to the platform and audience – for example, by reducing video summaries of each stage from five minutes to 30 seconds for a social media audience.

Over the last few years, we’ve therefore made ongoing improvements to the data-streaming analytics platform. Today, machine-learning algorithms process information from a range of sources to profile the riders and make predictions about the race.

The official Tour de France website was launched in 2015. Race Center, the digital hub for all race information, was set up 20 years later and attracted 9.1 million viewers in 2017.

Inner-sourcing is a powerful platform for innovation

Innovation from the inside

A.S.O.’s investment in digital transformation was a big step forward in helping them attract a new audience. Now that the data-tracking system and supporting platforms are in place, the focus is on how to use all of that to engage different audiences in new ways.

Dimension Data has a huge pool of talent and skills across the globe, and we wanted to tap into that to accelerate what we’re doing with the Tour de France and encourage a culture of co-innovation throughout Dimension Data. This year we launched Le Code to France, an internal challenge open to all 30,000 of our employees across the globe. The results were incredible and we have some wonderful and creative ideas for enhancing fan engagement to share with A.S.O.

Automate to innovate

Innovation in service delivery

It’s all very well to talk about a culture of innovation, but if people don’t have time to look at cool new things, those cool new things just aren’t going to happen.

I’ve seen this first-hand as part of Dimension Data’s technical team for the race. Much of the progress we’ve made during our partnership with A.S.O. is tied to our ability to automate key operational and management tasks in the technical environment. This frees us up to, you guessed it, focus on cool new things.

Fewer hands on deck managing day-to-day operations means more minds at work sharing and developing ideas that improve our IT service delivery and help our clients achieve their ambitions.

The Manage Centre dashboard gives us a clear view of the environment for easier management and control.

Protecting the important stuff

Innovation in security

Embracing digital transformation means understanding the risks of new business models, customer engagement channels, and technologies, and having security measures in place to mitigate them.

With data now being such a critical part of A.S.O.’s Tour de France strategy, we need to protect that data, and the associated technology platforms, from cyberattackers. That means knowing how attackers operate and where the most vulnerable areas are, and being able to identify and respond to any number of threats. Advanced security capabilities like predictive threat management play a crucial role here and have been incorporated into our digital transformation initiatives.

A.S.O.’s investment in digital transformation has positioned the organisation to innovate in developing and delivering rich content that will contribute to growing its audience. And ultimately, this is what any business aims to achieve: ongoing relevance, customer satisfaction, and growth.

Lessons from cycling for your digital business

Insights for your digital transformation

We’ve taken some lessons from our four-year relationship with A.S.O. and the Tour de France that we believe can apply to any industry. Get our e-book for more insight into the journey and benefits of becoming a digital business. 

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