Will Red Bull sponsorship of Stratos drive sales

Will Red Bull Stratos Drive Sales of Red Bull?

Twenty years ago, Reese’s Pieces took advantage of an opportunity that M&Ms declined. In doing so, they secured the marketing opportunity of a lifetime in the movie E.T. and, arguably, validated product placement as a viable tactic in the marketer’s toolkit.

This year, the Red Bull Stratos event might lead to a similar evolution in marketing.

“And now the question is,” writes author Larry Woodward in an ABC News column, “Will the tens of millions of dollars in free publicity and attention garnered by Red Bull attract other companies to move outside of traditional advertising and promotional sponsorships into the area of science and research.”

Larry has a point. Red Bull Stratos was surely enough to make even Coca-Cola’s marketing machine reach for its pencil and scribble down a few notes.

But I have a different question:  Will that sponsorship drive sales?

According to the Red Bull Statos website, Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet – the highest skydive ever.  He reached a speed of 833 mph – that’s more than Mach 1 – and was the first human to reach such a speed without mechanical assistance. He was in freefall for four minutes and 22 seconds– and perilously unstable for a few moments.  He pulled his parachute at about 5,000 feet and completed his jump in just over nine minutes by landing on his feet. He’s earned what’s likely to be a tenured entry in the record books.

The event, part stunt and part science experiment, was eight years in the making.  Felix had a NASA-esque staff of hundreds support personnel on the ground.  He tested a new space suit.

Throughout the jump, Red Bull’s logo was featured prominently:  on the balloon’s capsule on the way up, on Felix’s helmet on the way down and on his canopy when he pulled his parachute for the remaining five minute glide to earth.

Did those logos pay off?

The Associated Press reports that the jump was broadcast live on more than 40 television stations and 130 digital outlets.  It also trended on Twitter in multiple locations “pushing past tweets about Justin Bieber and seven NFL football games being played at the same time.”

PilmerPR, which promoted the event for seven months leading up to the jump, says in a PRWeb release that Red Bull amassed 235,000 Twitter followers and 300 million views on YouTube during that period.

AllFacebook writes that Red Bull’s fan page earned 270,000 more likes the day of the jump.  According to USA Today, 8 million people watched the event live as  the story broke across CNN and other major outlets.

Without a doubt, these are amazing figures, but the question remains, will the event drive sales?  Did people put a little more Red Bull in their Absolut Vodka that night? Will people pick up a four pack of Red Bull next weekend, next month or next year?

I believe they will and here’s why:

1. Red Bull knows its audience.  Whether it’s insanely crazy mountain biking or F1 racing, Red Bull has a penchant for guerrilla marketing and has earned a reputation for sponsoring extreme sports.  They sponsor the sort of adventure that requires courage and is fueled by adrenaline.  While this event is quite possibly the most expensive undertaking the company has performed, they’ve got years of experience with this approach.   Historical results?  It’s hard to argue with a company has grown to greater than $3 billion in sales.

2. We’ve seen this question before.  Remember the Old Spice campaign?  People were asking the same question following that campaign:  did Old Spice drive sales?  Yes, it did.  Sales jumped by 55% in the first few months following the campaign.

3. Red Bull has interesting content for months ahead.   Content marketing is proven to drive sales – and as Econsultancy points out, there are several content marketing lessons in this campaign.  We can measure it cleanly from the origin of traffic to a website through to conversions.  Yes, you can buy Red Bull online.

Despite my convictions, there are however a myriad of other views.

  • It’s the content Red Bull is selling.  Our own Peter Shankman says that Red Bull is monetizing the content – citing its deal with The Discovery Channel. While he says he is sure sales of the drink will increase, he believes the company is more interested in earning revenue from the content.
  • Which half was wasted?  Anthony Iannarino, who pens The Sales Blog, wrote in an email, “It makes me think of the age old saw about half our marketing dollars being wasted but not knowing which half. I’ve talked to dozens of people about the event, not one has mentioned Red Bull. Literally, not a single person. I believe that this may reinforce an existing relationship with the brand, but I’m not sure it opens any new relationships – if that’s what it was designed to do.”
  • You bet sales will increase.  David Stone, an Australian marketer working for Nokia in Norway points to both the exposure and credibility the brand gained. I find David’s comment remarkable not just because he’s a marketer working for a big brand that responded to my query on Twitter, but because sales of Red Bull are reportedly banned in Norway.

How about you?  What impact will this have on sales of Red Bull?  Please sound off in the comments.


  • Brian D. Meeks

    I am not sure if this specific event will drive sales or if there will be away to indicate that any future sales increase can be credited back to the jump, but it does build brand.

    I used to work for GEICO, where a 15 minute call could save you 15 minutes on your car insurance. You’ve probably never heard that before. Actually, I’m sure most have and that is because of GEICO’s years of gorilla marketing.

    The executive VP of Marketing, Ted Ward, is a genius when it comes to spending their budget. It is a large budget, very large, but that doesn’t mean he will blow 2.2 million dollars on a Super Bowl ad. He gets every penny of branding value out of his budget.

    I’m reminded of one year at the French Open (or was it Wimbeldon). To put a GEICO patch on Andre Agassi’s arm would cost $100,000 dollars. The way it works, the company pays to place the patch at the beginning of the tournament and it stays throughout. If the player advances then there are more opportunities for the branding to have value. Ted Ward did not spend $100,000 for a patch, though. He spent around 1% of that to put a patch on a guy that nobody had heard of, but would likely meet Agassi after a couple of rounds, because he had been playing well.

    The man, who I don’t remember, did meet Agassi and the match was televised. Every other shot showed him battling back ground stroke after ground stroke, each time with a patch on his shoulder that said GEICO. Not only was it on TV, but the match went to a 5th set. That is hours and hours of branding for a fraction of the cost to have the patch on the other side of the net.

    Then, the young man did the unthinkable, he won! It was an amazing upset and ESPN talked at length about the heroic match. And there was the GEICO patch, through it all.

    Did that one event cause people to run out and buy auto insurance? No, probably not, but thousands of little branding opportunities, combined with very funny commercials, have made GEICO a household name in the United States.

    I don’t know what Red Bull spent, but I suspect they got their money’s worth.

    • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

      Thanks Brian, for such a thoughtful comment. There’s definitely an educational value — that when the time for a sale comes, the customer is already familiar with the brand. That’s a difficult concept to track. So how about GEICO – how does it measure success?

      • Brian D. Meeks

        I think you want to know, how do they measure the success of their marketing. It is pretty complex and they are able to track the slightest sales increase or decrease. The analysts know when campaigns are running and can see if there is impact. GEICO does a great job of really deep analysis and because they’ve done it since before anyone had heard of the Goverment Employees Insurance Company, their are measurements and data gathering requirements in place, so new people are able to take over when someone leaves or gets promoted.

        I could honestly talk about this for hours. Maybe, one day, well meet and I can tell you some cool data analysis stories. (Okay, cool may have been overselling it, but I think they are fun. #MajorNerdWarning)

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    I don’t see this driving sales. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe people are focused on Red Bull having given Felix the ability to make this jump.

    • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

      Oh, The JackB! I’m glad to see you here. The point you make echos Anthony’s sentiment; so that makes two smart people. For the record, I did buy a 4 pack of Red Bull Zero for the weekend. I just figured I’d save a few bucks buying it at the store rather than a gas station.

      • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

        Gas prices in Los Angeles are close to $5 bucks in many places and higher in some. Any time you can combine trips you are saving money.

        I am interested in learning more about the goals of this campaign because I can’t make as accurate an assessment of this campaign without that information.

        If I base my reaction/impression off of what I have heard and seen I don’t see much value here. The demographic I am part of (40 something year old fathers) isn’t talking about Red Bull nor are the twenty somethings I play basketball with.

        My FB feed mentioned Felix quite a bit, but I don’t remember anything about Red Bull. So I really would like to hear what they wanted to accomplish and if they think they did.

  • Td

    Personally I think this jump was very cool and fun to watch with my step dad. Don’t get to have many moments like that these days. But red-bull is a junk drink and this stunt wouldn’t influence me to buy it. Now, if it was promoted by a decent beer producer, like Newcastle, that would be a different story…

  • Pingback: 6 Creative PR Ideas for Earned, Paid and Shared Media | Sword and the Script()