Today Felix Baumgartner jumped from a space capsule and plummeted 24 miles back to earth. The entire event, broadcast live on TV, was riveting. I watched it all unfold, riveted to the screen.
The event was a triumph for Felix and his team. It was a triumph for Red Bull and an example of world-class brand building.
The event worked for Red Bull for three reasons.
First, it was an extraordinary undertaking. As a result it generated a huge amount of publicity. At the moment the story is one of the top headlines on the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal. It is impossible to buy this sort of coverage.
Second, Red Bull branded it all very well. It is almost impossible to miss the fact that Red Bull sponsored it; the distinctive red logo is everywhere.
Third, it fits the brand. This is perhaps the most important element. Red Bull isn’t an ordinary brand; Red Bull is edgy. The brand sponsors all sorts of odd events that push the limits of human achievement (and some say sanity). Red Bull is about energy and pushing yourself and taking risks and these ideas all apply to today’s jump.
Two important points.
First, this was a risky branding move. It could all have turned out poorly, in which case the publicity would have turned negative. The team would have tried to gloss it over and I’m confident they had a disaster plan worked out. But the risk was very real.
Second, I suspect this event wasn’t driven by a rigorous ROI calculation. I’m quite confident the marketing team at Red Bull didn’t quantify how this investment would pay back with x number of incremental cans. They decided that the undertaking would support the brand and they went for it.
And so the Red Bull team took a risk, and just like Felix, they triumphed today.