This article is part of our ‘Marketing Strategies’ series, an in-depth look at how some of the world’s most successful companies promote their brand and their products.
For many business owners, compiling an effective and exciting marketing strategy can prove challenging. Therefore, it can sometimes be beneficial to look at what the marketing powerhouses of the world are doing, and take inspiration from their approaches and their successes.
One such marketing powerhouse is the Austrian beverage giant, Red Bull – known almost as well for their daring and widespread campaigns as for their actual core product. This out-of-the-box approach hasn't deviated attention from its drinks range, though; in fact, it helped it gain a leading 24.9% share of the US energy drink market in 2019, selling more than 7 billion cans globally during this period.
To illustrate how the company has achieved this, we've taken a closer look at Red Bull's marketing strategy, in order to present a case study of what makes it so effective.
The Red Bull Approach
By basing its marketing and advertising approach around promoting a high-energy philosophy for the lives of its consumers, Red Bull arguably sells a way of life rather than a simple energy drink product.
This is most prevalent in the range of extreme sporting events that it hosts and sponsors, working with influencers in the field and sharing captivating content that inspires its target audience to be more active and adventurous. In this way, Red Bull cultivates an emotional, authentic connection with its consumers, creating a loyal community of adrenaline enthusiasts, athletes, sporting spectators and more.
Its famous slogan, "Red Bull gives you wings!", is used across online and offline campaigns, delivered through television advertisements, print media, outdoor advertising, digital channels and, of course, Red Bull's own websites and microsites.
In terms of identifying a customer profile, the brand clearly pinpoints key demographics to ensure its marketing messaging and placement is tailored.
To that end, Red Bull's consumers are – according to Numerator – predominantly between the ages of 18 to 34, both male and female, with an average to high income, and with preferences for sports participation or spectatorship. They are defined as young, independent professionals, with lofty aspirations.
Red Bull collects the data required to identify this by inspecting its internal insights, such as website and digital campaign analytics, as well as conducting external market research. Relevant information is also collected through customer surveys, field trials and focus groups, with the company ensuring that its buyer profile is consistently updated. This ensures that their strategies continue to be both relevant and effective at all times.
As a reflection of this fairly broad profile, Red Bull's marketing delivery is diverse and eclectic, utilising a combination of online and offline channels to target its shoppers and expand its consumer breadth.
The key platforms it targets include:
Influencer Digital Marketing
Red Bull masterfully uses influencer marketing to attract audience engagement, retain viewer attention and reinforce positive brand association among its consumers.
In keeping with its high-energy theme, the brand collaborates with a combination of carefully selected influencers – generally elite athletes and extreme sports personalities – such as Max Verstappen, Marc Márquez, and Letícia Bufoni. These ambassadors document their training and participation in sporting competitions, bringing this promoted content to their own audiences through social media, thus broadening the delivery of Red Bull's philosophy and promoting brand affinity to new viewers.
User-Generated Digital Content
The brand also utilises user-generated content across its own corporate social media profiles, essentially allowing its digital following to become micro-influencers. This further promotes a sense of inclusivity and community among its consumers and online fans, lending a unique, organic feeling to its digital presence.
Taking this one step further, Red Bull conducts an international photo competition every three years, called Red Bull Illume. This enormously popular contest aims to promote photography within the sphere of extreme sports and adventure, once again linking back to the brand's primary marketing objective.
This provides a clear example of how Red Bull takes an innovative approach to its marketing, turning a simple tactic into a standalone campaign that succeeds in capturing attention and engagement.
Red Bull is well known for its sponsorships of sporting events, but in recent years it has taken this concept even further through its ever-growing portfolio of sports teams, including the Red Bull F1 and NASCAR teams, football clubs in New York, Leipzig and Salzburg, and ice hockey teams in Munich and Salzburg.
One of the core pillars of its marketing strategy, this offline practice is effective in underpinning the excitement around the wider brand and is a clear portrayal of its key philosophy to consumers and new audiences alike.
The beverage giant also uses this approach to successfully differentiate itself from its competitors, and dominate its chosen consumer market by focusing on a delivery technique that innately stimulates a loyal community among its consumers.
TV Streaming and Advertising
Red Bull ensures that the excitement of its sporting events is also available online and is brought to digital audiences far and wide. The company owns its own video streaming platform, accessible through TVs, mobiles and tablets, and offers coverage of live events, while related sports, music, and entertainment content are also available on demand.
Despite its focus on online streaming, the brand does not neglect regular television, though. Red Bull invests heavily in TV advertising globally – so much so, in fact, that it was the third most advertised beverage in the US in the final quarter of 2018. Indeed, the brand ran over 3,000 TV ads throughout that period alone.
The content of these adverts differs markedly from the action photography utilised across Red Bull's social media and influencer marketing, highlighting its understanding of the relevant content types and suitability for various platforms. The TV commercials consist of a series of witty, illustrated cartoon animations that play on controversial social and political themes.
To ensure that the brand captures each segment of its target consumer group, Red Bull also invests in print promotion. As is consistent with the company's approach, it distributes its own print magazine, the content of which revolves around the typical Red Bull active lifestyle, sports and adventure themes.
The readership of this magazine also consists of a different audience compared to its online campaigns, therefore extending the brand's reach and awareness among its related demographic.
Red Bull is consistent in its marketing delivery, retaining its coverage across online and offline channels in its attempt to maintain a reputation for reliably producing and distributing enjoyable content.
However, to capture the attention of new audiences – as well as re-activate lost consumers – Red Bull also launches spontaneous campaigns and promotions, predominantly focused on raising brand awareness. The Stratos marketing campaign is a spectacular and memorable example of this periodic guerilla marketing.
Defined by the company as a "world-class, multi-stage, scientific flight test program", Red Bull hit global headlines in 2012 when it sponsored Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner's ascent to the Earth's stratosphere in a helium balloon – and his subsequent jump from it. During this event – known as the Stratos project – Baumgartner became the first person to break the speed of sound during a captivating freefall that lasted for four minutes and 19 seconds.
The freefall was live-streamed through YouTube (and 280 other digital video delivery partners) to some 52 million global viewers, becoming the world's most-viewed live stream and a mainstream media phenomenon. The video of the jump inspired audiences around the world, capturing their imagination and igniting a global conversation around the ingenuity of Red Bull's campaign. As a result, Stratos generated more media attention than the brand could have ever dreamed of achieving with a regular marketing campaign – coverage worth an estimated earned media value in the tens of millions. The event embodied the slogan "Red Bull gives you wings!" in possibly the most impactful way in the company's history.
In addition to the phenomenal coverage and significant brand affinity, the Stratos project also supplied Red Bull with unique photography that it would go on to use in its marketing campaigns for the ensuing years.
Indeed, the company experienced a bottom-line increase of 7% in sales within just six months of Stratos, garnering a total of $1.6bn in the US, while the project also earned Red Bull Media House a Sports Emmy in the category of 'Outstanding New Approaches [to] Sports Event Coverage'.
Overall, the Stratos campaign is an extreme but excellent example of creative marketing, bringing people together and appealing to their curiosity for scientific innovation and personal development. Though this project was conducted on an enormous scale with a significant budget and boundless resources, budding businesses can still apply this theory to their own marketing campaigns, leveraging creative ideas relevant to their industries or brand identities, to begin memorable conversations among consumers.
Red Bull's marketing strategy effectively appeals to its target consumers and organically earns their valuable engagement. The company raises brand awareness through various channels, ensuring all content used accurately reflects Red Bull's brand identity – and thereby driving positive association through the use of this exciting, active, sporting subject matter.
While the company is able to implement these processes and ideas on a grand and spectacular scale, their successes in marketing still offer many teachable lessons for small business owners, too. Indeed, many of the techniques that Red Bull implements are readily available to any entrepreneur, even if their execution and reach are significantly different. Remember to keep your marketing approach and activities authentic to your brand, experiment with various methods, content forms and mediums, and – above all – focus on inspiring your consumers!
In the meantime, if you still want to learn more about how the world's biggest brands market their products, then don't forget to take a look at our breakdown of Starbucks' marketing strategy, either!
What else can be learned from Red Bull's marketing campaigns? Let us know your thoughts and insights in the comment section below!