Lance Armstrong Peddles ‘Tour de France’ via Social Media

Lance Armstrong will advocate his passion for social media and bring brand sponsors Oakley, Nissan and Clear2o along for the ride by teaming with healthy living community Web site On the site, Armstrong will provide real-time updates from the “2009 Tour de France,” which begins July 4 and runs through July 26. The Tour de France portion of the site goes live today (Wednesday).

The deal was designed out of Armstrong’s frustration with U.S. coverage of his sport during the “Giro d’Italia” race. “He called up and said, ‘I, Lance, want to broadcast through exclusively and use Twitter to make sure people can not only see the tour, but actually feel it and hear it directly from my mouth—unedited,’” explained Richard Rosenblatt, co-founder, chairman & CEO of Demand Media, which owns the community.

“It’s a true leap in social media—one of the greatest athletes ever talking about what’s going on and filming it in real time,” said Rosenblatt. “Advertisers want to feel like they’re participating, and their brands are tied to something real. [With] this experience—it can’t get more real.”

The champion cyclist, cancer survivor and founder/chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation will connect directly with fans via the site and file behind-the-scenes blogs, videos and photos. This will be Armstrong’s 12th “Tour de France.”

The site will also feature a route-tracking tool called Livestrong Loops, which let fans track Armstrong’s journey and map the race across all 21 stages. They can also check out local courses for running, walking, cycling and hiking at the site and track the caloric burn from completing a loop by using The Daily Plate tool.

Oakley, Nissan and Clear2o are the presenting sponsors of the site’s behind-the-scenes “Tour de France” content, and their products will get placement in blog updates.

Oakley’s Jawbone glasses are the current model for which proceeds are donated to Livestrong, and the brand has raised $3 million in two years for cancer research. Oakley will get banner ads and other real estate on the “Tour de Lance” section of the site in exchange for the sponsorship. Oakley, which gets about 1.5 million unique visitors to its Web site each month, will link to and provide live Twitter feeds from Armstrong and the 75 or so other riders it sponsors in the race.

“In this tough economic climate, we’ve found that people want to spend their money on a quality product or something they believe in,” said Pat McIlvain, vp-sports marketing at Oakley, a company that began sponsoring Armstrong 20 years ago when he was a triathlete. “With Livestrong, they feel the money is going to something good and they want to participate. It’s as a centrifugal force of what Lance is riding the ‘Tour de France’ this year. Sure, he wants to win. But more so, he’s trying to raise money and awareness for cancer.”

Clear2o, which markets a water bottle with a filtration system called Clear2Go, modified a widget at the Livestrong site that reminds users to drink plenty of water each day—it’s now subtly sponsored and branded. Nissan’s specific plans are less certain. The company is expected to use the sponsorship to promote the Altima and to interact with consumers and the Livestrong and Lance Armstrong brands online and offline.