6 Marketing Lessons From Red Bull: The Man Who Fell TO Earth

As you probably know, on October 14, 2012, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner became the first human being to break the sound barrier in freefall. Does this spectacular success in marketing have any lesson for other companies looking to promote their businesses?


Baumgartner also set a record for the highest freefall ever after leaping back into the earth’s atmosphere from a balloon capsule 38 kilometers above Roswell, Mexico. The stunt, which was funded and marketed by sports drinks brand Red Bull, also broke a record on YouTube. Over 7 million people watched the live event on the video sharing site alone.

The event generated a lot of interest in social media. Even Heinz Fischer, the president of Austria posted a congratulatory message on Facebook. This message alone received 600 comments and 28,000 likes, underpinning the importance of getting involved with what ordinary people are also talking about.

The broadcast stunt was organized, paid for and broadcasted by Red Bull, the sports drinks brand. The privately owned company’s sponsors must have nervously followed the event since there was a risk that the event may associate the brand with calamity. Every employee must have felt a hard lump in the throat when Felix Baumgartner lost control and the images of him spinning around were switched to those of ashen faces at the mission control center.

Many expected them to cut the feed, which had a 20 second delay. According to sponsorship experts, the online frenzy surrounding the leap from the space served to highlight a trend that have been slowly emerging for some time, with sponsors moving away from the traditional models towards their own spectaculars. The fastest growing trend for the last 10 years which has been accelerated by social media is that of businesses creating their own content become a priority.

Create an authentic story for your brand

In a branding effort that other companies would appreciate, Red Bull has sponsored the efforts of a wide variety of extreme sports men including Robbie Madison’s jump onto the Champs Elysees on a motorbike, building a private half pipe for Shaun white and recording the snowboarding results. In May 2012, the brand sponsored Kye Forte and other BMX riders to perform big jumps against the London skyline with over 10.000 spectators watching from Alexandra Palace.

The band went from sponsoring a Formula One team to owning one which has swept all before them in the driver’s championship for the last years. In coming up with these innovative ways to sell fizzy, caffeinated sugar water, Red Bull has been redefining the sports sponsorship niche.

But instead of simply sticking their name and logo on sports gear, they strive to have complete control of the media presentation of its sponsored sporting events.

Directly broadcast to customers instead of using the mainstream media

Red Bull’s effort to become a leading content creator has allowed them to work on projects without worrying about catching the interest of the mainstream media. They have created their own audience that can be reached through their own channels including event specific websites and dedicated social media platforms among others.

Allow the mainstream media access to lots numerous version of your content in different formats

When the global press gets interested in an event, they love the prospect of free content. Doing something inspirational and positive has a way of luring the mainstream media and getting attention amid all the deluge of information. Being such a unique event, the Baumgartner space jump was just what the journalist had been waiting for. Many found it refreshing to talk about the triumph of courage and human spirit.

It allowed people to break out of the typical narrative of gloom and doom. The mainstream media were eager to be part of the story, thus multiplying Red Bull’s own marketing efforts with free publicity from leading online publishers and broadcasters around the world. No amount of money could have bought such a vintage contextual placement for content.

Hire top talent

Red Bull always sponsors the best sportsmen. For the Stratos event, they haven’t hired probably the gutsiest and most experienced skydiver but also brought the expertise of Andrew N. Nystrom into the team as their global marketing director for their social media campaign.

Lessons From Red Bull

Nystrom had been picked up from his previous job as the Los Angeles times’ website’s senior produce of travel coverage where he had already emerged as one of the most innovative individuals in using social media to increase brand popularity.

Have an action plan for before, during, and after

The Red Bull marketing team generated a lot of interest before the event to maximize the audience that would be tuned in for the live event. To keep the audience interested, information such as the preparations for the jump and setbacks were regularly communicated through the brands various social media platforms. The company created Stratos-dedicated channels on all the social media platforms, where anyone could access the live streams of the event in real time.

Right after the safe landing of the daredevil, Red Bull’s twitter followers were given the chance to post any question they might have for the daredevil. This clever push resulted in half the trending topics around the world being about the Red Bull Stratos event.

Watch every detail, and beware if auto-programming messages message without adequate security checks

In spite of the unparalleled success of this event, it wasn’t a smooth drop for both Felix and the company as he momentarily lost control and the Red Bull team made a mistake in their congratulatory statement for the Austrian stuntman, misspelling the word “count” into a foul-mouthed four letter word. According to The Sun, the note remained online for three hours before being corrected.

Red Bull had full control of the production and broadcasting of the event. Since technology and broadband speeds have evolved to the point that media can be accessed from virtually any part of the world, over 8 million people were steaming the event by the time Baumgartner got ready to land.

By having a productive and digital media marketing arm, companies can ensure that their events reach the target audience without having to worry about capturing the interest of the mainstream media.

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