How would an amateur cyclist fare on the route of the Tour de France using a ‘regular’ bike from Halfords? Agency DLKW Lowe tells the story of the Tour de Francis in a 15-minute documentary and a series of TV idents
Halfords is sponsoring ITV4’s coverage of the Tour de France this year. Jonny Watson and Dan Harrison, creative directors at the retailer’s agency DLKW Lowe, hit on the idea of putting an amateur cyclist through the rigours of some of the Tour’s toughest stages on a Halfords bike (actually a Carrera Virago, cycling fans, which costs almost £1000, so not exactly cheap then).
They came up with the punning title Tour de Francis for the project and issued a call for amateur cycists called Francis to take part. After a series of auditions, Dan Francis, a 29 year-old Londoner who works for a pharmaceutical company and who spotted the idea on a cycling forum, was chosen. Apparently, there was also a back-up Francis, just in case, but he was not needed.
The agency took Francis and a 12-strong support team to France and Belgium to ride four of this year’s Tour stages, including one major climb. His efforts are recorded in a 15-minute documentary (directed by Nick Mason at Another Film Company) which is viewable on YouTube and on the Tour de Francis Facebook page. The footage has also been used to make 24 idents which are running in ad breaks during ITV4’s coverage of the Tour.
Reaction on cycling sites to the project so far, seems to be a mix of scepticism and admiration for Francis’s endeavours – plus some irritation at his description of “smashing it up by the river” at one point. But sponsorship idents, particularly those that have to last for three weeks, are notoriously difficult to pull off without engendering annoyance or boredom in the audience and Francis’s puppyish enthusiasm and evident relish for the task is refreshing. Regular viewers may not feel the same by the time the Tour reaches Paris though.
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