December 13, 2013

Like Red Bull, Content Marketing Can Give You Wings

On the surface, the idea that a company that sells energy drinks is planning to launch an international television station seems ludicrous—but that is precisely what Red Bull intends to do.

Based on the company’s previous success with content marketing, it is more than reasonable to assume its new venture will be a smashing success.

Red Bull was launched in 1987 by Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, based on a drink he first discovered on a trip to Thailand. The drink made its way to the United States in 1997 and has become an international giant since, with 2012 worldwide sales totaling $6.5 billion.  Over the past several years, however, Red Bull has moved beyond simply selling energy drinks, to revolutionizing content marketing and branding.

In 2007, Red Bull created an in-house media division in Europe and later expanded to offices in both New York and Los Angeles. Red Bull Media House, which now employs about 135 people, produces documentaries, music, a magazine—available in 11 countries and four languages—and a variety of other content. In the digital media space, Red Bull Media House operates more than 900 domains in 36 languages through  

Perhaps the most famous of Red Bull’s content marketing campaigns to date is Stratos, a groundbreaking 2012 skydive by daredevil Felix Baumgartner that set new world records for highest free fall, fastest free fall, longest free fall, and highest manned balloon flight. Baumgartner jumped from a capsule 128,000 feet above the earth, travelling at a maximum velocity of 729 MPH. Using a live stream—which YouTube said exceeded eight million concurrent views—of the jump as a centerpiece, Red Bull built a robust campaign of content both leading up to and following the event. The company created videos about the preparation that went into planning the dive; live blog and social media updates; a link to order merchandise straight from; articles about the science of the jump and much more.

Clearly, the scope and ambition of a content marketing campaign like Stratos would be unrepeatable for all but the largest corporations in the world. But the core strategies it employed can be used by smaller businesses. For example, the energy drink’s primary slogan is “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” So what better way to connect a campaign to a product pitch than to literally send a man to the edge of space? Red Bull has built its content marketing strategy around extreme sports where athletes are literally flying, with both metaphorical and actual wings, through the air. While the content production itself is often quite involved, the ideas it evokes are fairly simple: youth, fun, excitement…energy.

"I think Red Bull's brand awareness accomplishment is through the roof," says Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group. "Ten years ago, nobody knew what Red Bull was. Now, maybe they're not up there with McDonald's or Coke, but you could say they're on a par with Starbucks."

Obviously most businesses do not have an in-house media division capable of putting out thousands of hours of video every year. But that doesn’t mean they should underestimate what content marketing on a smaller scale can do for their brand. On the most basic level, Red Bull’s strategy is about connecting its product to feelings of uniqueness and excitement among the public. What business couldn’t benefit from that?


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