This is what would have been day 8 of my Digital Writing Challenge; looking into the Red Bull sponsorship and endorsements deals and how they’ve successfully positioned themselves as a lifestyle brand. I’ll be looking into each event Red Bull host, support or endorse and how it plays a huge part into their marketing and brand positioning. This part of the Red Bull study will look into what they’ve done and how it has benefited them.
Before we start looking into specifics I’ll outline again why Red Bull’s positioning is so important. When the brand first started, there wasn’t a market for them as energy drinks didn’t exist before Red Bull. If a consumer needed an energy boost, one brand they could always rely on for a caffeine kick was Coca-Cola and it’s no secret that Coke and Pepsi are the two companies who massively dominate the soft drinks market. However, despite these market owning giants, Red Bull founder, Mateschitz, pioneered a form of marketing, using events to define the brand and build loyalty, rather than standard mass market advertising.
Of course, (as we all remember I’m sure), Red Bull have rolled out numerous successful TV ads, which would have been aimed at the mass market. The most popular being the sketchy cartoon ads, featuring the likes of William Tell or Leonardo Di Vinci, consuming a can of Red Bull before sprouting a pair of wings and flying off into the distance. Despite the success of these TV ads, this wasn’t how Red Bull were going to reach their peak.
Mateschitz knew the success of Red Bull was going to be based heavily on their marketing. However, it was just a matter of how they did it. Mateschitz has stated:
“It is essential that one develops a unique communication and advertising strategy, above and below the line, a campaign that combines body and mind in a very non-conformist way. The image of Red Bull is definitely nothing to do with any food product, but has a luxury, lifestyle identification.”
This was very much Mateschitz’s vision for Red Bull – he knew what he wanted the brand to be and where he wanted it to get to. Even in these early days, Mateschitz knew he wanted Red Bull to be more than just an energy drinks company – he envisaged Red Bull as a lifestyle brand instead. Mateschitz built Red Bull’s reputation away from the mainstream world, of blue collar, 9 – 5 office workers that they were currently attracting, connecting the brand to a world far, far away from the ordinary, consisting of VIP bars and extreme sports such as aerobatics, motor racing and Flugtag – a competition run by Red Bull where people build and fly their own flying machines.
About the Red Bull sponsorship and endorsements
With Mateschitz’s positive vision for Red Bull’s future, they had various options available to them whatever position they were in – they could either sponsor an event, where they could bring their branding and product forwards via product and brand placement, or if this wasn’t an option, invent their own event from the ground up and host it themselves. The benefits of the latter for Red Bull were that it meant they got to control all aspects of the event, from the name and logo to promotions used and media production. Red Bull could feature their logo and their branding as much, or as little as they liked; they had complete branding freedom.
Red Bull event marketing
Some of Red Bull’s earliest and most successful events were the Red Bull Soapbox Race, the Red Bull Flugtag, Snow Thrill Skiing Competitions and the Red Bull Cliff Diving Tour (to name but a few). Perhaps the most successful of these events though, for it’s memorability alone is their Flugtag event.
Flugtag fitted in with Red Bull’s humorous, light-hearted side perfectly. The event was all about good natured fun and comical flying failures, watching participants attempt to launch their prized flying machines off a ramp and into the ocean. Red Bull believed that the more unique the event was, the more likely it would be that TV studios and newspapers would want to cover it. Red Bull’s Marketing Director, Kraihamer stated:
“We want to have the most creative ideas and do the best things so that they get into the media automatically”.
However it wasn’t just good idiotic fun for participants; the winner received free lessons for a pilots license, so there was a worthy outcome. The event also tied in well with the message Red Bull had been trying to promote since launching – Red Bull revitalises the body and mind and that Red Bull gives you wings. This event worked well because according to Red Bull it required use of the mind (in creatively designing the flying machines) and the body (the power to get it off the ground).
Collectively, each of these events helped to enhance Red Bull’s visibility and brand positioning as a stimulating drink. Red Bull’s Corporate Communications Manager, Emmy Cortes, said: “people who attend one of our events, have the indelible awareness that it was sponsored by Red Bull because of the unusual amount of control we can exert over our own events”.
Having earnt a worthy position as a revitalising and stimulating drink, Red Bull were then able to focus their efforts on honing this position, fine tuning it into the lifestyle position they’d been striving for.
After the success of sponsoring and hosting their own events, Red Bull turned to sponsoring sporting events and individual athletes. These sporting endorsements were the factors that played the biggest part in Red Bull securing that desired lifestyle position. It helped Red Bull to establish some form of credibility among key professionals who participated in adrenaline filled sports, such as surfing, snowboarding and skydiving and those who spectated the sports.
In terms of sponsoring athletes, Red Bull were very selective in terms of who they targeted. First of all, the sport had to fit in with Red Bulls image and brand personality, the athlete and the sport had to be individual, non-conformists and unpredictable. Kraihamer backs this point up stating: “generally, these are extreme sports only. But if there is an energetic golfer, then no problem.” Red Bull started this route of sponsorship by first just making their product available at competitions, allowing athletes and participants to come across Red Bull in their own way, becoming real, authentic users. Following on from this subtle brand introduction, Red Bull and the desired athletes would then work out a sponsorship deal, resulting in Red Bull gaining a place of featuring their logo somewhere on their clothing, equipment, or both.
As Red Bull started to become more well known among athletes and as they started to use Red Bull for its stimulating effect more and more, awareness was in turn, being generated more and more among their fans and audience. Quickly and rapidly, Red Bull became an international brand, allowing them to sign more influential and exaggerative deals. The breaking point of all their marketing efforts was in 2004, when they struck an incredible sponsorship deal with Sauber-Petronas F1 team, allowing them to buy the flagging Jaguar team, in turn creating Red Bull Racing.
The beauty of this sponsorship deal was that it gave Red Bull instant global recognisability. However, with great brand awareness, comes a great price. It is estimated that to keep the Red Bull racing team on the track, it would cost $100 million a year, only in turn generating a revenue of $70 million. Fortunately, Red Bull soon after expanded its racing resources, by sponsoring the Red Bull Junior Team and the Red Bull Driver Search.
The success of Red Bull’s sponsorship, allowed them to expand and move into the field of American motor sports in 2007, by creating a NASCAR team. By owning the team, Red Bull not only got to decide the branding design of the cars, but also the extra little features they wanted to include. For example: Red Bull decided that one of the cars would showcase the numbers 83, which represented the 8.3 ounce weight of each Red Bull can. It is estimated that a total of over 30% of revenue, is spent marketing the brand.
On October 14th 2012, after five years of planning and after postponing the event twice, Red Bull sent Felix up in a helium balloon, for a record breaking skydive from the stratosphere. This is easily Red Bulls best marketing activity to date. News of the stunt went viral in days, with people all over the world talking about it and with a reported 30 million+ tuning in to watch the live stream of the stunt.
The skydive was a big move for Red Bull. Not only did it cost them near on millions – Felix’s balloon is reported to have cost at least £43,000 alone, not including fees for 40 engineers, scientists and consultants, training, high-tech cameras and the expenses of five years planning – but the stunt was a big risk. Filming it live across the world left Red Bull vulnerable global viewers, who would see every second, even if anything were to go wrong. Once Felix began his ascent, the stunt was out of their hands and this was a very big risk to take. However, one that certainly paid off, with the global viewers and recognition they gained said to be worth several million.
The risk also paid off in regards to their positioning. Determined to become an edgy, lifestyle brand who believes taking chances is worthwhile, what better way to do so than to give access to viewers globally to such a risky stunt? This marketing activity was their first of its kind and the first of its kind for any brand to ever attempt, well and truly pinning Red Bull as the exciting, energy driven brand of choice.
After the Stratos jump, it is estimated that Red Bull could be worth around £5 billion, following in the footsteps of soft drinks giants, Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. Below are the key facts from the jump:
- Maximum altitude of 24.214 mi (38.969 kilometres)
- Maximum speed of 843.60 mph (1,357.64 kph)
- Total free fall time of 4 minutes, 20 seconds
- Total free fall distance of 36,402 metres (119,429 ft)