Red Bull are doing it right. Their most recent marketing exercise has raised the bar literally to stratospheric heights for brands. Red Bull Stratos saw Austrian base jumper Felix Baumgartner leaping out at the edge of the universe to skydive to earth at over 800 miles per hour to land with a skip on his feet. History was made and I watched it live, holding my breath, through the internet (and it cost me nothing). But this was not just ordinary brand sponsorship – not tagging your name onto something big enough that you will get recognised (even if it is a completely unfitting relationship, see Cadbury’s contentious Olympics 2012 sponsorship..) – but Red Bull’s own project.
The brand has been ahead of the game and pioneering event ownership for a while. Their most well-known Flugtag began in 1992. The premise of the event is for punters to enter an engineless ‘craft’ that they will jettison off from a ledge to see how far they can ‘fly’, accompanied with a goofy, comic voiceover to emphasise the hilarity and foolishness – but good fun – of the event. This never appealed to me.
The Red Bull product – a sickly, highly sugared energy drink which contains the unpalatable taurine, has traditionally been associated with clubbing and going out to have fun, as opposed to being a sports drink. This has steered the product towards the comic, as well as being dominated by their strapline Red Bull gives you wings.
But now Red Bull has gotten serious. The Stratos event was on a completely different playing field. Records were being broken. Lives and reputations were put on the line, real-time, to a global audience. And (thank our “guardian angel“) they delivered. Through live footage, Red Bull permitted almost total access to the undertaking and I felt privileged to be part of it – even if I am not a consumer of the product, I am now a fan of the brand. Of course there are critics that say that the event had no real scientific merit. But why should science own the skies? Richard Branson is already well on his way to taking punters to space.
Fundamentally I want to applaud Red Bull for engaging with their heritage in new ways and for entertaining consumers. Big brands make so much money and have such a great impact that it feels right that they should be raising the stakes in terms of engagement – in a sound and brand-faithful way. Congratulations to Felix for this incredible feat. He is a hero, thanks to Red Bull.