THE most powerful figure in global advertising has predicted that the success of the Tour de France could transform perceptions of Yorkshire.
Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, told The Yorkshire Post that the region will be viewed around the world as a “better, more friendly, beautiful and engaged” place after an extraordinary weekend in which millions of people turned out to support the Grand Depart.
He said the successful event “does demonstrate the power of international events in changing images and perceptions and motivating people” and added that Yorkshire did “very, very well, an added dimension”.
The bicyle race is the world’s largest annual sporting event and attracts a global television audience of up to 3.5bn people.
In research for The Yorkshire Post, WPP said the splash from the Grand Depart was much greater than could be foreseen even despite the World Cup, Wimbledon and Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the British Grand Prix also taking place during the weekend.
It calculated that the total equivalent advertising spend from the opening weekend would exceed £31m.
The total cost to the taxpayer of hosting the three UK stages of the Tour is put at £27m.
WPP added: “It is also worth noting that the value of the positive media will be relatively modest in comparison with the overall economic impact to Yorkshire driven by the visitor influx and hotel/tourism spend - the weather helped massively with this no doubt on the days - as well as indigenous Yorkshire celebrations.
“These seemed to far surpass already ambitious hopes and expectations. Anyway the UK media loved the human interest, gritty Yorkshire versus Gallic sophistication angle – the Sunday front pages were a good example.”
Tom Vosa, head of market economics, Europe, at National Australia Bank, said the opportunity for Yorkshire was “an extended helicopter video” of the region.
He added: “Given the difficulties that regions outside London and the South East have in attracting international tourism, in effect the Yorkshire region enjoyed and extended television advert to a global audience to showcase the beauty of the landscape and remind international visitors, who tend to fly into London and the South East to take the train northwards.
“The Grand Depart in itself was never going to be enough to give a sustained boost to international tourism - we need the various bodies to do more to promote it, including the status of regional airports - but it is a very good start and was very impressive.”
“The crowd numbers were bigger than expected and therefore the short-term boost will be higher, although the expenditure will be pushed around - money spent last weekend will not be spent next weekend or the weekend after.
“From a national perspective, the impact on growth will be much smaller as effectively Yorkshire has attracted tourist money that will not be spent elsewhere.
“Nonetheless, a small positive boost is always welcome as the recovery continues and a boost to growth outside London and the South East chimes with the new regional development agendas that all main political parties seem to be slowly converging on.”
Andrew McPhillips, group economist at Yorkshire Building Society, one of the event sponsors, said: “With estimates of anywhere between 2.5m and 5m spectators lining the roads of Yorkshire, the immediate economic impact of the Grand Depart will have been huge, particularly for those businesses located along the route.
“Thousands of people looking for accommodation, food and drink will have provided a welcome boost to the regions’ hoteliers, restaurateurs, retailers and landlords amongst others.
“The amazing spectacle this weekend was a one-off positive shock to the local economy yet the greatest impact is likely to be seen over the coming months and years.”
He added: “The impact of this event cannot be overstated and the local economy should reap the benefit for a considerable time to come – good news for all of us.”
Organisers hope that the event will generate a £100m boost for the regional economy.