There are 22 teams in the Tour de France with a variety of sponsors from household goods to governments. Here’s a closer look, presented in the start list order…
Jumbo-Visma (Netherlands) is a Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo – say Yumbo – and Visma, a Norwegian IT services company. Jumbo is family-owned, growing fast across the Netherlands to become one of the leading food retailers and has been expanding into Belgium which is why Wout van Aert’s been so useful to them. Jumbo needed a payroll services company and picked Visma and it was through this deal that the team co-sponsorship came about. Jumbo’s called an end to the deal but their notice still means there’s funding until the end of next yearf and talk that Saudi Arabia could be the new backer.
- Goes back to 1984 and the Kwantum team then Superconfex, Buckler, Wordperfect, Rabobank, Belkin and LottoNL
UAE-Team Emirates (UAE flag, legally run out of Switzerland) is backed by the United Arab Emirates, a federation of kingdoms with Abu Dhabi as the capital, the oil and gas rich state. Once upon a time the Lampre team, they were supposed to have a Chinese replacement sponsor but this vanished and at the last minute a real estate Sheikh from the UAE stepped in. With success the team has become more central to the ruling family, many sponsors on the jersey are linked to Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, national security advisor and sports fan, currently brother of the UAE president and “TBZ” is on the up in the region. They ride Colnago bikes which have an Italian heritage but the company is now owned by Chimera, one of the many companies chaired by TBZ.
- The team can be traced back to 1990 when it was Colnago-Lampre
Ineos Grenadiers (Great Britain) is a petrochemicals company that manufactures and supplies the chemicals to make the plastics that surround us and it’s grown so big it’s now drilling for oil and gas for raw materials and energy to power its chemical plants. It’s a private firm owned by James “Jim” Ratcliffe, Britain’s third richest person who left a career at oil major BP to buy up unloved chemical factories. He bought the cycling team for fun and also has a sailing team, owns French football club OGC Nice, is a sponsor and part owner of the Mercedes Formula 1 team and is currently bidding for Manchester United. Why? Because he can, and they help with dealmaking too, VIP opportunities galore. The Grenadiers name is a side project to produce a genuine utility vehicle but comes with a premium price tag so you won’t see it on many farms; the team doesn’t use it either.
- The team began in 2010 as Team Sky and was built on the back of Team GB’s success on the road and track
Groupama-FDJ (France) is 50-50 joint venture owned by its two sponsors. If you want to sound très French then pronounce it Groupama-FDG. Groupama is a giant mutual insurance company which means policy holders own the company, it’s not quite a non-profit but you get the picture. The rural logo hints at the original name Groupe des Assurances Mutuelles Agricoles. FDJ is short for La Française des Jeux. It’s the French lottery which is now privatised but has committed to fund both the men’s and women’s teams for several years so no change on the horizon. The team is quintessentially French right down to the tricolore kit but look to them to add some more foreign signings soon. The team doesn’t have a women’s team but it does share FDJ and also bike sponsor Lapierre with FDJ-Suez, interestingly the women’s team is packed with blue chip corporate sponsors like Suez, France’s Carte Bleue (a Gallic version of Visa/Mastercard) and so on, a sign how women’s cycling is on the up with a big lift from the Tour Féminin.
- The team began in 1997 and has kept the same sponsor all along; in 2012 it was FDJ-BigMat and then Groupama took a 50% share for 2018
EF Education-Easypost (USA) is owned by EF Education First, a language education business that was started in Sweden and now HQ’d in Switzerland, presumably for tax rather than the mountain air. EF Education First sounds like a pleonasm but loyal readers will know the initials EF actually stand for Europeiska Ferieskolan, Swedish for “European Holiday Schools” because this is what the founder Bertil Hult named his venture and it’s grown to a big business making the Hult family billionaires. The team’s seemingly changed name every year but this year has seen continuity from last thanks to Easypost, a company ships small goods and packets for e-commerce.
- The team began as a junior development team in 2003, became a pro team in 2007
Soudal-Quick-Step (Belgium, Luxembourg) has seen Belgian chemicals company Soudal switch teams over the winter, the company owner attracted by the prospect of backing Remco Evenepoel, an unsticky move for a company that normally markets how strong its adhesives are, it makes glue for building sites, think tile adhesives and that sort of thing. Quick-Step may seem quintessentially Flemish but it belongs to a in Amsterdam… Amsterdam, New York called Mohawk Industries, a giant supplier of commercial and residential flooring. The team vibes construction site sponsors which part explains the blue overalls team kit – workers in Europe often wear blue dungarees – is owned by Zdeněk Bakala, a Czech billionaire and benefactor who’s a keen cyclist and he has helped to top up the budget over the years.
- Quick Step’s sponsorship began in 2003 but the team is an assembly of mergers over the years and can be traced back to the 1990s
Bahrain Victorious (Bahrain) is backed by the oil-rich island in the Middle East. It’s harsh regime that sits 171st of the press freedom index and scores as badly for other measures of openness and freedoms but this blogger better say nice things about because you can get jailed for tweeting criticism. It’s a case study in “sportwashing”, using sport to present a dynamic image of the sponsor all while not ever washing anything away, more a power play to plant a flag. It’s also personal project led by a Bahrain prince who likes his cycling, triathlon and more.
- Started in 2017
Bora-Hansgrohe (Germany) is a German team sponsored by two Mittelstand manufacturers. Bora makes kitchen extractor fans with the selling point that the fans are located beside the cooking hob rather than above The firm has experienced prodigious growth since it started sponsoring a team and has a cycling-mad boss, he even hired Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, the group that protects the pavé, to clay cobbles on the driveway of the new corporate HQ. Hansgrohe make plumbing parts like taps and shower heads and if they have a Germany history since being founded by Herr Hans Grohe in 1901 are these days majority owned by US conglomerate Masco. Don’t confuse them with arch rival Grohe, the plumbing version of Adidas vs Puma.
- The team started in 2010 as Team NetApp
Lidl-Trek (USA, Belgium) is the brand new combination of Germany discount supermarket Lidl and US bike brand Trek, with Lidl replacing coffee firm Segafredo. The German retailer is expanding around the world, opening up new shops in the US these days with an established presence across Europe and this means the new sponsor wants riders from around the world. The new retail sponsorship means more money and the squad is going on a shopping spree in the transfer market as you read this. It’s worth saying aloud that this is one of the few big semi-global consumer-facing companies to come and sponsor a team.
- Began in 2011 as Leopard-Trek
Ag2r Citroën (France) features French social insurance company Ag2r La Mondiale, which offers top-up health insurance and pension plans to savers in France. A rival to Groupama, it’s also mutually-owned and has grown via mergers to become one of France’s biggest insurance companies although the kind that if they didn’t sponsor a team maybe nobody would have heard of it. The co-sponsor Citroën, the car manufacturer that is now a brand within Stellantis, one of those companies named by an agency, that also owns Opel, Dodge, Maserati, Fiat and Chrysler among other brands. It’s a big sponsor that has helped the team up the budget but they blew a chunk of it on good but ageing riders on the decline and are now shopping for riders to replace the likes of Greg Van Avermaet.
- Ag2r is a title sponsor since 2000 and the team was founded in 1992 as Chazal
Alpecin-Deceuninck (Belgium) are newly promoted in the World Tour. Alpecin is a shampoo brand from Germany with caffeine in it (reviewed on this blog) and you wonder if they’re forbidden from signing a balding rider. Oddly for a team that gets giant exposure in France, the shampoo’s not for sale in supermarkets nor pharmacies in France. Continuing the Belgian construction site theme, Deceuninck’s a Belgian maker of PVC windows and doors, a company worth €315 million on the Euronext stock exchange.
- It began as a cyclo-cross team in 2009
Intermarché-Circus-Wanty (Belgium) is sponsored by Intermarché, a supermarket group from Brittany in France but the sponsorship deal is with the Belgian subsidiary rather than the parent company which is odd given they’re racing around France now, you’d think the HQ could chip in as well. Circus is a bookmaker and casino in Belgium and Wanty does civil engineering, think building bridges or specialist demolition projects. Are you a member of a cycling club? If so, could it ride the Tour de France in the future? Unlikely but this team began out of a tiny local cycling club, the VC Ath, in the 1970s and has climbed up the rungs, becoming a regional team, then a national U23 team, then a UCI Continental and now it’s in the World Tour and racing around France this month.
- It went pro in 2011 as Willems Veranda-Accent
Cofidis (France) is a French consumer lending company which has now expanded to offering loans in Spain, Italy and central Europe making the cycling team a useful marketing tool. It’s aimed at those needing cash at the lower end of the market, for all the “cycling is the new golf” in the US, UK and Australia, in France and other core nations it’s cycling is still a working class demographic and so Cofidis can reach its target market. They have a paracycling team and a women’s team as well. Cofidis is now part of the Crédit Mutuel financial group which also owns online bank Arkéa, more of which soon.
- A continuous presence since 1997
Movistar (Spain) is a mobile telecoms operator that belongs to Telefonica with activities in Spain and Latin America and has a sub brand in O2 which is used in Spain but also Germany, the UK and other markets. They’ve signed a small agreement with the Saudi Arabia cycling federation to “share knowledge” with the unspoken goal of taking on sponsorship from the kingdom but as reported by Relevo, the “speed is a little slower than we’d sometimes like”. Business deals with Saudi Arabia can take time and unlike Jumbo-Visma the team can’t wow the sponsors in the same way, it’s not the same franchise.
- This is the longest surviving team in the peloton with a lineage going back to 1980 and the Reynolds team with José Miguel Echavarri at the helm for most of the time before handing over to Eusebio Unzué, and now his son Sebastian Unzué is picking up the reins
Team dsm-firmenich (Switzerland, Netherlands) DSM used to mean Dutch State Mines, a company founded in 1902 to extract coal from the Limburg region but it’s become a life sciences group that makes chemicals for vitamins as well as Dyneema, a type of plastic that is popular as material for sailing boats and used in lightweight cycling shoes too. It’s just merged with Swiss chemicals company Firmenich so the sponsor is two names but one company – based in Switzerland – and the team is seen as part of the marketing message, so much so that it’s getting a top up in cash to shop for new names which might alter the developmental vocation of the squad. Dutch telecoms provider Youfone is very visible on the kit, at times more than DSM, but just a co-sponsor.
- A quiet story of growth that goes back to Shimano–Memory Corp in 2005 via Skil and Argos Oil
Israel-PremierTech (Israel) is backed by Israeli-Canadian real estate billionaire Sylvain Adam, a keen cyclist who recently migrated to Israel and has been spending his fortune to promote the country. You might play Velogames and spend an imaginary 100 credits, Adams does it with his cash although he used up a lot of budget to hire Chris Froome and the team got relegated and it’s now looking to change its image. PremierTech is a Canadian horticulture company that start out digging up and selling peat, today it sells fertiliser as well.
- Adams bought the Katusha licence which bought Oleg Tinkov’s Tinkoff Credit systems team which began in 2006
Jayco-Al Ula (Australia, Switzerland) is backed by Gerry Ryan, one of Australia’s wealthiest people thanks to his Jayco caravan business – Australia’s largest vehicle manufacturer ever since Ford and GM/Opel pulled out – and canny investments along the way such as the Walking With Dinosaurs show. For years the team has been hunting for a commercial sponsorship deal to top up their Australian benefactor and they’ve got Al Ula, a tourist destination in Saudi Arabia.
- Greenedge began in 2012 and has struggled to land a title sponsor, it’s had Orica and Scott along the way
Arkéa-Samsic (France) isn’t just a French team it’s a Breton team, with Arkéa being an online consumer banking brand inside the Crédit Mutuel group, the parent company of Cofidis too. Samsic is a recruitment agency also from Brittany but growing across Europe, it has operations in Italy for example which means the team likes to race in Italy too. Newly promoted to the World Tour after some crafty points-hunting in the past seasons, they’ve made the top tier but now seem to be wondering what to do, there’s talk of signing Arnaud Démare but he’ll be 32 soon and an improvement as their house sprinter but this is a team in need of a project. Samsic’s stepping down at the end of the year and the Breton team will get B&B Hotels on board, the fast-growing hotel operator returning to the sport.
- The team began in 2005 as Bretagne–Jean Floc’h and under the patronage of Breton political bigwig Jean-Yves Le Drian, the former French foreign minister (2017-2022)
Lotto-Dstny (Belgium) is the longest continuous team sponsorship in pro cycling with the Belgian state lottery backing a team through various name changes over the years ever since 1985 and the national lottery makes them a national team in Belgian, with the need to recruit both Flemish and Walloon riders. Relegated last year, the fall didn’t stop them from getting Dstny on board, it’s a Belgian telecoms and communications company that now operates in several European countries and CEO Daan De Wever said he didn’t quite realise the team’s predicament at the time. He’s is an active sponsor who has been vocal in wanting more results from the deal but if he’s patient the team’s got a good pipeline of U23 talent.
- The team goes back to 1985
Astana (Kazakhstan, Luxembourg) was the capital of Kazakhstan – it’s Kazakh for “capital city” – but the city was renamed Nur-Sultan in tribute to the country’s long term ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Astana name has been consistent for years but the funding source being the team has changed, the country’s sovereign wealth fund backed the team but when rider wages became unpaid the Presidential Sports Club took over. But this was closed down last year and the Samruk Kazyna fund is back to bankrolling the team. Once one of the top teams in the sport, it’s budget has stayed flat while rivals have overtaken it and it’s becoming a bit a career graveyard, riders who join can struggle to get out.
- Title sponsor since 2007 when the team was born out of the ashes of the Liberty Seguros team which was engulfed by Operation Puerto
Uno-X (Norway) is a new name in the Tour de France, a chain of fuel stations that’s pivoting to become a supplier of charging points for electric vehicles in Norway and Denmark too. There are several names on the kit like Uno-X, Reitan and Rema-1000 but they’re all under the same corporate umbrella of Reitan, a Norwegian conglomerate with activities in Denmark too but that’s it, the publicity this July and beyond is all about reaching the audiences there and paradoxically the more success Jonas Vinegaard has, the more their exposure rises in Denmark. The squad’s looking for a co-sponsor and given the rumours about the signings they’ve been making, must have found one. They’re an invitee team riding on a wildcard but look set to become a fixture given the strength of the squad.
- Goes back to 2010 as third tier Conti outfit Team Ringeriks-Kraft and moved up to the second tier in 2020
TotalEnergies (France) is backed by French oil major Total, or TotalEnergies as it’s now called. The oil giant got into cycling by accident when it acquired Direct Energie, an alternative electricity supplier in France but has used the team as a vehicle to help with the rebranding from Total to TotalEnergies and the sponsor does everything from service stations to lubricants, alternative energy to drilling for oil and gas. The team’s heart is from the Vendée region and unlike its sponsors, very much a family business more than a multinational. The signing of Peter Sagan can be spun as beneficial for the way he helped inspire others but results-wise it’s a Total flop and the team need to rebuild and reinvest otherwise they’ll be a precarious position and could find themselves without an invitation to the Tour in the coming years which would be ruinous but if there’s a sponsor with cash to spare it’s TotalEnergies, current market value is €130 billion.
- Born out of the Vendée-U team, the pro team began in 2000 as Bonjour and was Bouygues and Europcar along the way
There’s no single theme here, although if you want to build a home in northern France with some finance you could tap into a lot of the sponsors. Some sponsors are in it as a marketing project and want to influence your spending habits and wallet, others have less strict criteria. Some barely seem to have commercial purposes and marketing goals, there are benefactors and sugar-daddy sponsors in it for fun, and also nation states whether just Belgium and its state lottery, or Middle-Eastern countries hungry for recognition and trying to convert some of their petrodollars into soft power. It’s can be called sportswashing but there’s no lather, there’s no laundry, it’s almost the opposite where sponsors with dirty linen can drape this in public and everyone else has to deal with it.
Pro cycling as a “product” is complicated, with vastly different audience demographics from country to country which makes it an awkward sell for many consumer-facing brands, in one country it reaches high income professionals, it another it’s the other end of the scale.
Finally for all the big companies involved, the biggest sponsors in cycling aren’t at the Tour de France. At $450 billion United Healthcare might have a market capitalisation bigger than any of the companies named above combined, Novo Nordisk is similar too and both have teams but for now they’re side projects and second tier UCI Pro Teams rather than flagship sponsorship projects.