How Red Bull took awesome branding to stratospheric levels

Despite hating the taste of Red Bull (though I am partital to the odd JaegerBomb in refined company!), I’m an avid fanboy when it comes to the Red Bull brand.

The world’s largest energy drink sure does know who it’s customer bullseye is, and using excellent content, perfect brand alignments and sponsorships, engaging social campaigns and advertising which is authentic and tells a story, this horrible cherry flavoured can of Austrian piss, that makes your heart beat like crazy and may or may not have health consequences, has become one of the world’s foremost brands.

Red Bull has gone some way to blurring the lines between its “primary” product, making energy drinks, and the corresponding business of creating content, deriving experiences and telling a story to the people that it considers its core target audience. 

From branded events like Flugtag to extreme related sponsorships like X Fighters, Cliff Diving, Air Race, X Games and Formula 1, to the excellent branditorial that is the Red Bulletin, and to the way Red Bull uses video content, digital and social media to engage users, the brand is best in class at almost every digital discipline. Take a look at their Instagram for an example.

However, last night, the energy drink really took things to a new level, literally.

Anyone who is reading this will by now have heard of the amazing Red Bull Stratos event, and the incredible jump from the edge of space made by Felix Baumgartner yesterday evening. Of course, this was mindblowing in terms of human endeavour, with all types of records shattered and lots of new scientific data derived. It was a stunt which truly pushed the boundaries.

However, on the marketing side of things, this was, in my limited opinion, one of the greatest marketing displays of all time.

There were some utterly seismic stats in a marketing sense last night, and as one tweeter quipped, Red Bull literally “created their own SuperBowl”.

Most of the Western world tuned in on Sunday evening primetime, and the live stream smashed previous records for a YouTube live event, with over 8 million views.

The event spawned hilarious fan sites, fake accounts, conspiracy theories, a Lego remake, and created an insane amount of online buzz, on a dreary Autumn weekend evening.


It also…

 This excellent Guardian piece takes a closer look at Red Bull’s overall marketing plan, and how last night’s event fits into that, and the following quote, I think, puts things into perspective:

“Because Red Bull controlled the production, and broadband speeds and technology have reached a point where watching from anywhere is a reality, by the time Baumgartner was ready to jump there were over 8 million people viewing online. Immediately after he landed safely, Red Bull solicited questions via Twitter and Facebook to put to the former base jumper. During and afterwards, half the worldwide trending topics on Twitter related to the Austrian’s historic jump.

Because it could then provide all manner of arresting royalty-free images and footage, Red Bull received blanket coverage in mainstream media too.”

Elsewhere, memes flooded Instagram and Twitter, live coverage (including countless stream embeds) was visible across the web, and two threads made the front page of Reddit. Hell, even fake footballer accounts got in on the action!

Other than all of that though, what some might miss is the little details they got right which made a huge difference. The Red Bull branding wasn’t in your face or off putting, but just nicely positioned (Felix didn’t yell, ‘It gives you wings’ as he fell for example, or swig a can as he prepared to jump, though the basecamp camera angle made sure to get the logo on the rear of each team member’s polo in!). The live stream, despite incredible viewing figures, was smooth and clear throughout. The photographer got the perfect shot as Felix hit the ground. The imagery from the cameras as the jumper looked over the world was jaw dropping. Royalty-free versions of video and image content was made readily available to media in multiple formats.

And of course the back story of having elderly former record holder Joe Kittinger in place as mentor and guide was perfectly played out, without too much soppiness. It was perfect marketing executed perfectly, branded storytelling at it’s finest.

The final test of any really great marketing event is, does it make for a great watercooler moment.

Just think how many workplaces were abuzz at 9.01 this morning with “Did you see that space jump last night?”.

I’m a marketing geek, and this is my catnip/heroin! Please feel free to share this post if you feel the same way!

Here’s how Co.Create, The Drum, and Forbes saw the event.

*Just one more thing, while researching this blog post, I took a look on Amazon for any good books which analyse how Red Bull do what they do, and there seem to be none. There’s an opportunity for any aspiring business/marketing writer out there! If Lego, Innocent, Apple etc can have one, surely Red Bull can too.