At last, the Tour de France has a sponsor to froth about

A sugary glass grenade to the heart.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 21.03.2023 Photography by
Orangina (trans: French for 'Fanta, but Not Gross')
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The cycling season builds to a pinnacle event – the Tour de France. It’s the race with the greatest prestige and the largest audience; the race that entire team and sponsor budgets are constructed around. And for event organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), it’s where its commercial team can ink the most lucrative deals with brands, bringing them into the Tour’s sweaty embrace.

The first rustlings of such deals typically come early in the year, with the arrival of press releases outlining the synergies (always ‘synergies’) that exist between the Tour de France and, say, popular hit fruit The Banana. But while the 2022 Big Banana Sponsorship was a masterpiece in its own right, this sales cycle brings glad tidings, too – in the form of the Tour de France’s newly crowned Official Orange Pulp-Based Soft Drink partner. We know this courtesy of a press release lobbed onto the internet by ASO, jauntily titled ‘FIZZY FRENZY WITH ORANGINA AND THE TOUR!’

Orangina – a beloved beverage of Algerian origin – is a mainstay of the French soft drink market. It contains 12% citrus juice (10% orange, 2% from a blend of lemon, mandarin and grapefruit juice, 0% cumquat) and 2% orange pulp, with the balance made up with carbonated water and sugar (or, in North American markets, high fructose corn syrup). It is a bit like Fanta, but, crucially, much better. Also, it comes in a cute little bottle. 

Here, have a retro advertisement that is based on Orangina’s “distinctive identity … the shaking motion”:

Over a series of acquisitions, Orangina’s ownership has been passed around from Cadbury-Schweppes, to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and finally to Japanese beverage juggernaut Suntory, where it currently resides. In Suntory, Orangina has found a corporate overlord that is amped enough about the Tour de France that it’s signed up for a three-year partnership, citing the way it will “energise our consumers, clients and teams and rally them around this unifying event”. 

From a press release that veers between dull platitudes and bonkers overstatement, we learn of Orangina’s “quest [to] conquer the taste buds of thirsty fans around the world.” We learn of how “both the container and the drink inside it have become part of our collective psyche.” We learn – because, again, there are always ‘synergies’ – that there are “powerful synergies with the Tour de France” that “are hard to overlook”.

We learn, intriguingly, that Orangina possesses an “aspiration to come closer to consumers through emotion”. We learn that Yann Le Moënner, general manager of ASO, has a sense of humour (albeit not a very good one) through his reference to the deal as a refreshing and bubbly relationship”. We also learn that Le Moënner (second left in the image below) absolutely smashes his Orangina down, Suntory’s marketing director Pauline Varga doesn’t drink hers at all, and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme (right) is a Little Bit Fancy and sips his from a glass, looking wistfully out of frame.  

The practicalities of Orangina’s infiltration of the Tour de France are still somewhat shrouded. We know that “its little round bottle, already a lifesaver for many a thirsty fan on the roadsides, will now feature in the publicity caravan”, but the method of delivery is unclear. The Tour caravan, staffed by horny students on summer holiday, drives the entire route of the race throwing things at roadside fans. While on one level the Orangina bottle would be extremely satisfying to chuck at people (the shape, the heft, etc,), an incoming glass grenade is a dicier prospect for the recipient. 

This July, we hope to get our dehydrated selves all up in this story. Until then, we salute Suntory’s “incredible opportunity to drum up support for the brand at the point of sale”, the undeniable synergies between sticky shards of glass and fingertips, and ASO’s incredible opportunity to make lots of money. 

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