Cycling’s worldwide popularity up seven percent in 2012

TV audience for 2013 Tour de France predicted to hit 170 million

Cycling isn’t just booming in the UK – the sport’s global popularity grew seven percent between May and November 2012, claim sports marketing agency Repucom, who provide research to brands, agencies and broadcasters. 

The company also said that about 45 percent of the global population carries an interest the “sport of cycling across all its disciplines”, based on results from 1,000-strong survey groups in 21 key markets around the world.

Repucom claim that about 170 million people are avid fans of the Tour de France which starts on Saturday. The figures pale in comparison to race organiser ASO’s assertion that 3.5 billion people caught the race last year. That figure includes return viewers.  

Ulrich Lacher, a senior sponsorship consultant at Repucom, said, “Pro cycling is one of only a handful of sports that reaches a global audience penetrating almost every major market. And, crucially for sponsors, it is one of the very few major sports still covered almost entirely on free-to-view TV.”

The agency said the sport’s global growth was fuelled by interest from new markets. Meanwhile, cycling’s popularity in traditional heartlands such as Spain and France has held steady, said Repucom.

However, Daam van Reeth, senior professor at the Centre for Economics and Management at the Hogeschool-Universiteit, Brussels, predicts that the 2013 Tour de France audience viewing figures will fall in one of cycling’s heartlands – Flanders.

He cited the disillusion caused by successive and long-running doping scandals such as the Lance Armstrong case, the presence of a team time trial and the fact that the race won’t visit Belgium among reasons that viewing figures will fall between five and 10 percent in Flemish Belgium compared to 2012.

Earlier this year, consumer research company Mintel claimed that the percentage of UK residents riding bikes was up to 40 percent thanks to last year’s Team GB cycling triumphs, spearheaded by Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy at the Olympics.   

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