Last year's Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, a momentous revival of a women’s edition of cycling’s most recognizable event, the Tour de France, was reported as a smashing success. Millions of people across five continents and 190 countries tuned in to watch eight action-packed days of racing. Thousands more crowded the French countryside streets and banged on the finish line boards.
As the main sponsor of the event, Zwift wanted to know just how successful its four-year investment is. Using data from sports intelligence company Nielsen Sports, Zwift set out to measure and analyze the impact of the 2022 race, hoping to answer the question: Was the race really the catalyst for change we all believed it would be?
Highlights from the Neilson Sports report, published today, certainly impress.
- Last year, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (TdFF) achieved a cumulative live audience of 23.2 million across 8 stages
- 2.9 million - The average live audience per stage for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2022
- The TdFF commanded an audience share higher than that of the men’s Giro d’Italia
- The amount of social posts, reach and engagement for the Top 5 women’s cycling races grew by over 300% in 2022 vs. 2021 as a result of the introduction of TdFF
- 115 million - Women’s cycling attracts a large following, ranking it the 4th most followed women’s sports
- 73% of women’s cycling fans are interested in participating in sports/fitness activities vs. just 44% for the general population.
- Zwift saw an 8.9% growth in its female subscribers
"We knew the racing would be exceptional, but it was the millions of fans that made it game-changing"
The report takes its conclusions from data that spans TV viewership, written media, and social media across eight key markets — the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and Japan.
Broadcast coverage was a huge contributor to the race's success. Racing could be watched live in 190 countries, resulting in a live cumulative viewership of 23.2 million people with an average live audience of 2.9m per stage.
Within the broader women’s sporting landscape, cycling attracts a following of over 115m, ranking it as the 4th most followed sport In these key markets. Only athletics, tennis and football (soccer) rank higher.
Of the eight key markets analyzed, France drew by far the biggest audience, with just shy of twenty million cumulative live views, followed by Germany and Spain.
Both in broadcast and written coverage, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift traffic exceeded that of the men’s Giro d’Italia in 2022.
In addition to the traditional media channels, the report showcases how the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift helped grow the sport and its athletes on social media. Individual riders and teams reported a significant growth spike during the eight-day race. The report concluded that over the course of the race, the Instagram and Facebook profiles of the top 35 female riders grew by 8.6%.
Whats more, other events benefitted, too. The amount of posts, reach and engagement of the Top 5 events —Tour of Flanders, Simac Ladies Tour, Madrid Challenge, Giro Donne and Paris Roubaix Femmes — increased over 300% thanks to the addition of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
"It would be an understatement to say we were thrilled by the response to the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. As longtime supporters of women’s cycling, we knew the racing would be exceptional, but it was the millions of fans that made it game-changing," says Kate Veronneau, Zwift's Director of Women’s Strategy.
For Zwift itself, the four-year investment has already led to an 8.9% growth in its female subscribers, something Veronneau told Cycling Weekly is much desired.
Female Zwift users account for just 18% of all users, which is significantly lower than say Peloton’s female participation —estimated at 45 to 49%— or even female gym attendance in the U.S., which the IHRSA states is now 50.5%.
Who's watching women's cycling?
While watching sports is still a male dominated activity, globally, the Nielsen Sports data shows there is a proportionally higher female interest (44%) in women’s cycling than general sports fans (38%).
Women's cycling fans of all genders are, on average 39.5 years old, and are almost twice more likely than the general population to regularly watch sport on social media platforms. They're also an active bunch, with 73% of women’s sports fans being interested in participating in sports vs. 44% for the general population. To that end, Zwift says that future growth in women’s cycling participation looks promising.
"This is just the beginning. Our job now, as industry, fans, sporting media, and riders - is to keep the fires burning bright. We need to work together to ensure this big moment sparks action and investment at all levels of the sport," says Veronneau.
"Women’s cycling is having a moment, we want you to help make it a movement. The more people that watch women, the more sustainable the sport becomes because a bigger audience means more broadcast coverage, more investment, more sponsorship, bigger salaries and increased prize money."
The Tour de France avec Zwift 2023
The Tour de France avec Femmes returns on Sunday, July 23. Eight exciting stages will see the women's peloton traverse across France for a total of 956 kilometers (594 miles).
Read about the route, the contestants and where to watch in our 2023 guide.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1