LEEDS: Almost one third of all UK shoppers are interested in the Tour de France, while leading brands are planning to target local communities during the cycle race which starts this weekend.

Shopper marketing agency Savvy Marketing polled 1,000 UK household shopping decision makers to see how they would be engaging with the cycling world's leading event and found that engagement was significantly higher in Yorkshire, where the race begins on Saturday. In all, 44% of Yorkshire shoppers were interested, compared to 31% nationally.

Local supermarkets are preparing promotions as 32% of interested shoppers said they expected offers on products to eat and drink during the event, while 27% were looking for offers on products relating to the race.

Ulrich Lacher, director of cycling insights at sports marketing specialist Repucom, told Marketing Week that despite its international reputation the race was not seen as an international advertising platform. "If you look at many of the Tour de France sponsors they are mainly French brands that tend to activate nationally rather than across Europe," he said.

But, given the current high level of interest in cycling in the UK, and in the Tour especially given that the last two winners have been British, he said there was an opportunity for brands to "make lower-key investments along the [race] route to generate awareness and relevancy around the sport".

Official sponsor Skoda, for example, is backing UK Tour de France fan parks where visitors can watch the race on giant screens as well as take part onsite activities and competitions.

Heidi Cartledge, head of marketing at Skoda UK, noted that the Tour passed through many towns and cities "which gives our retailers in that area the opportunity to activate the global sponsorship at a local level".

The various cycling activities that Skoda dealers got involved with locally had built a strong reputation for the brand amongst cyclists. "Consideration of Skoda amongst cycling fans is almost five-times higher than that of a general audience," she said.

Food manufacturer McCain plans to use the race to highlight the Yorkshire roots of McCain's potatoes. According to marketing director Mark Hodge, the strategy is primarily about deepening ties to local communities rather than pursuing mass-market appeal.

Online retailers, meanwhile, are gearing up for a surge in searches for cycling-related products.

Data sourced from Yorkshire Post, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff