– BY KARIM RABBANI, SELMA VAN SLOBBE, MATHILDE SIMON & JAMILLA DE JONGE –
The brand Red Bull was founded in 1987 by the Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz. Back then there was no market yet for energy drinks. Red Bull singlehandedly formed this market and set the standard for what an energy drink should be like (Franzen & Monriarty, 2009). The marketing strategies of Red Bull are mainly the sponsoring of extreme sports athletes and events (Brasel & Gips, 2010). Red Bull’s events attract a lot of attention, which then results in lots of media coverage. This is in line with Red Bull’s strategy: “if our results, achievements and activities are worth reporting, you will read about them” (Hammond, 2011). However, in the last few years many other energy drink brands came into the market, also aiming for Red Bull’s ‘extreme sports audience’ (Solley, 2004). Therefore, Red Bull seems to have taken a different approach with their latest subject: Red Bull Stratos.
The mission of Red Bull Stratos is to “advance scientific discoveries in aerospace for the benefit of mankind” (Red Bull Stratos, 2012) by letting the professional skydiver Felix Baumgartner jump out of a stratospheric balloon at 40 km height. Red Bull very much emphasized how much this mission meant to science and humanity. This indicates that they are targeting a broader audience this time, and not just extreme sports fans.
The official website for Red Bull Stratos states that this freefall mission was ‘’designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions near space’’(Red Bull Stratos, N.D.). However, after researching other Red Bull stunts, we can come to the conclusion that this mission was definitely also a marketing stunt, as Red Bull always invests in stunts/sport events, with marketing as a goal. A very similar example is the jump Felix Baumgartner did from 3000 ft with a carbon wing attached to his back. This stunt also received a big amount of publicity and was set up to create brand recognition and a ‘buzz’ around the product. Gschwandtner (2004), as cited in Red Bull (N.D.), assumes this recent stunt also wants to create brand recognition and a ‘buzz’ around the product, it is probably also created to expand the audience of Red Bull, as they have created a massive breakthrough in science and set several world records.
The mission was very newsworthy, as it is new, exceptional, and has a worldfuture impact resulting in proximity for the world (“Factors in Newsworthiness, N.D.), and therefore it got global newscoverage. As this is such an extraordinary mission, a hype arose on social media websites. Resulting in reaching a extremely large audience. After people have gotten interested due to this huge media exposure, they could visit Red Bull Stratos official website, blog, social media websites or even purchase their merchandising. On the site there was also a contest, were participants could guess Felix’s landing spot. The winner would win a Stratos watch worth 5000 dollars, and the five runner-ups would win merchandising goods (Drop zone, N.D.).
Although Red Bull is refusing to state what the costs were for the Red Bull Stratos project it is clear that the complex project wasn’t cheap. “There are fees and expenses for the nearly 40 engineers, scientists and consultants involved. A high-altitude helium balloon alone costs roughly $200,000 and the project requires several for test flights and backup. Baumgartner’s “next generation” pressure suit cost a quarter of a million dollars. The value of the pressurized capsule, with its communication and life-support systems, is anyone’s guess. The vehicle is equipped with 15 high-tech video and still cameras, and there are plans for a live webcast of the jump.” (Seanor, 2011).
Red Bull has spent millions of dollars on the Stratos project but altering estimates make it impossible to state an exact number. However an indication of the costs is shown by a similar project performed by former French paratrooper Michel Fournier in 2008 which cost a near 20 million US dollars over 20 years (Seanor, 2011).
Several partners and sponsors assisted Red Bull over the years to perform Red Bull Stratos. The first partner was Zenith, which is a Swiss watch manufacturer and was the official timekeeper of the Stratos project. The second partner is Riedel Communications who assisted with the communication aspects that were necessary through advanced fiber, intercom and radio technology.
The sponsors or supporters of Red Bull Stratos are Qinetiq North America who created and delivered products and services to ensure success. Larsen and Brusgaard is the supplier of altimeters used in the project. Airtec was a technological assistant to Red Bull during the project, providing them with investments for research and development and Automatic activation devices. Flightline Films helped with visualising and documenting the jump through aerospace cinematography. Micar Fabrication & Design Company Inc., Wings For Life Foundation and 3g were other major sponsors to the project (Red Bull Stratos, N.D.).
Red Bull obtained a lot of publicity through this original marketing stunt, however throughout the recordings Red Bull was very subtle, limiting the exposure of the famous logo. Giles Fraser states that you did see the brand logo but Red Bull didn’t overpublicize it. He says that this probably contributed to the enormous level of coverage that Red Bull Stratos has had (2012).
When it comes to more media platforms used to market the Stratos project (Besides the Redbull Stratos website), Redbull created a special Redbull Stratos section on their web shop where they sell ´mission´ clothes and accessories, specially designed for the Redbull stratos project.
Besides these merchandises, Redbull Stratos created a blog where they keep their readers informed on the progress they make on preparing for the jump. These are mostly behind the scenes pictures of the preparation, and information.
Furthermore, a Facebook page has been created to keep interested people up to date. On the Facebook you can enjoy videos, pictures, and read little updates. Redbull Stratos also created their own Youtube page where you can see the actual free fall, but also clips about test jumps, preparation, the capsule etc. Not only because of the remarkable project, but also because of the great marketing of Redbull Stratos, the jump received a lot of attention from different news organizations like the bbc, cnn, New York Times etc., which caused it to be world news.
All the aforementioned media platforms that were used to promote the stunt, were a part of the pre-sell for the actual jump. The largest part of the whole campaign can be considered as a pre-sell for the free fall, until to point where they shared live footage of the actual jump. Thus, this project was mostly about warming the audience up and creating a hype, which turned out successfully. And for a moment, we all wished we could fly…
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