If there’s one thing that Tour de France organiser ASO can be relied on, it’s synergising the shit out of brand connections – and there’s no place that those synergies take shape better than in the Tour de France caravan.
If you’re unfamiliar with this iconic cycling phenomenon, let me describe it for you. You, a spectator, stand on the side of the road in the French summer sun, waiting for the passage of the peloton. Cars with official stickers drive past you. Out of the back of one of the cars marked “Presse,” an Australian man with a moustache will wave energetically because he thinks it is very funny getting waved back at. And then, then, from down the road comes the honking parp of motorbikes and, shimmering through the heat radiating from the tarmac, the hallucinogenic vision of an enormous smiling lion gliding down the road on the back of a car.
For the next 10 minutes, your senses are under assault. There is the blast of terrible Europop. There are objects flying at you from all angles. Horned-up students on the back of floats punch the air and blow whistles. A man dressed as a king, increasingly pungent as the Tour drags on, smiles at you rogueishly. Local children scurry about your feet in the dust, looking for pouches of Haribo. Elderly women beg for dish soap. At the end of the frenzy, you assess your haul: some grotesquely weathered little sausages, some Frisbee-like bags of awful coffee, some mustard you don’t want, a banana that’s travelled the world, washed down with a grenade full of Orangina and a fruity non-alcoholic beer.
This year, however, the Tour de France caravan is about to get a whole lot cheesier. Thanks to a gloriously bombastic press release from the ASO, we are thrilled to report that global cheese icon La Vache qui rit is on the hook for the next three editions of the race, hommes and femmes.
La Vache qui rit – known as ‘The Laughing Cow’ in English markets – is a wedge-shaped portion of soft white processed cheese which Wikipedia tells me is “made from aged cheeses, but not aged itself.” 🤷♂️ It is available in 120 countries with “people around the world eat[ing] 125 wedges of La Vache qui rit® every second.” Those individually wrapped wedges come in a circular white cardboard box with a big red laughing cow with a strong jawline on the front. Fortuitously, from a food poisoning perspective, it “can remain unrefrigerated for a limited length of time.”
As for the brand’s place in the Tour caravan, it’s the return of an old friend, having been a regular fixture from its first participation “over nine decades ago” and continued attendance into the 2000s.
I don’t know what falling out led to La Vache qui rit dropping out over the years since, but there are big goals for 2024 onward, including “spread[ing] positive vibes throughout the route” and “most importantly, [delivering] a tidal wave of laughter and smiles for spectators and TV viewers of all ages of the biggest cycling race on Earth.” Sounds fun! And a bit threatening!
As is traditional for a press release like this, there are a couple of quotes from key figures, such as Anne-Sophie Carrier (general manager of parent company, Bel France) saying that they will “[bring] everyone in France on board for a fun sporty experience full of flavour,” and Christian Prudhomme (director of the Tour de France) alleging that, thanks to a cheese, “laughter and a popular celebration will fill the air in July.”
As is also traditional, there is a staged picture of Carrier and Prudhomme standing in front of some signage, with (again, traditional) Prudhomme studiously looking slightly away from the camera. There is also a big red inflatable cow, and if you look carefully you can see the silhouette of someone inside pondering the twists and turns of their life to this point.
In short, it is everything you could hope for from a cheese-related brand activation and more, and I for one can’t wait.
As enthusiastic observers of the Tour de France’s corporate machinations in general, and the caravan in particular, Escape Collective is excited to stare down a tidal wave of laughing cheese this July. We look forward to reporting back on our findings from the roadside.
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