Halfords has been sponsoring ITV's Tour de France coverage for three years. Last year the company got a lot of stick for its idents featuring Chris Boardman, an anchor on the ITV's daily live shows and evening highlights package. Boardman was made to utter inanities such as wondering what the second and third steps of podiums were for. Nevertheless, sales of Boardman bikes - available only in Halfords - increased during ITV's coverage. This year the company is promoting its high-end house-brand Carrera, and there's no role for Boardman.
Amateur cyclist Dan Francis, who rides to work in London for a pharmaceutical company, was chosen to represent the Carrera brand via casting done by a sports casting agency earlier in the year. (The Tour de Francis campaign suggests the film-makers may have been casting for a cyclist with 'France' in his name. On Twitter, @johnthemonkey said he's going to change his name by deed poll to Gerald Italia.)
Francis is shown riding four stages of Le Tour on a Carrera Virago, a carbon-frame bike that retails for under the magic £1000, so qualifying it for the Government's salary sacrificing Cycle to Work scheme.
The video indents, seen on ad breaks for ITV's coverage of Le Tour, have so far told only part of the tale. It's only by watching the 15-minute video below that the campaign starts to make sense.
Francis was filmed riding the prologue route in Liege, Belgium, is shown riding in the Champagne region, and is then filmed riding up Col de Madeleine in the French Alps (he got in the car before the summit) and braved the traffic on the ten lane maelstrom that is the Champs Élysées in Paris.
As well as a film crew in one car there was back-up support in a van, as well as a team mechanic for the bike. How did the bike fare over the four days of riding? One puncture.
The TV ads will evolve as the Tour progresses, with 24 different idents to be shown over the three weeks of TV coverage.