Six marketing lessons from Red Bull and the man who fell to Earth

As you’ve probably heard, the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner has become the first skydiver to fall at the speed of sound. Does this spectacular marketing success have any lessons for travel companies looking to promote their products?

Baumgartner set a record for the highest ever freefall after leaping into the Earth’s atmosophere from a balloon 39 kilometres above Roswell, New Mexico.

His stunt, which was marketed and funded by sport drinks maker Red Bull, also broke a YouTube record. About 7 million people watched the event on the video service alone.

The event drew a lot of social media comment. Even the president of Austria, Heinz Fischer, turned to Facebook to post a message:

“I warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide attention.”

His message received 28,000 likes and 600 comments, showing the importance of talking about what ordinary people are talking about.

Felix Baumgartner red bull social media marketing

Six social media and marketing lessons worth copying

Red Bull was the energy drinks brand that came up with, paid for and broadcast the stunt. The sponsors at the privately owned US company must have looked on nervously as there was a risk they might associate their brand with a calamity.

Everyone at the company must have felt a lump in their throat at the part in the jump when Baumgartner lost control, and the grainy images of him spinning around were switched to shots of ashen faces at mission control. It really felt like they were about to cut the feed, which was delayed by 20 seconds.

1. Create your own story for your brand

In a lesson relevant for travel marketers, Tim Crow, chief executive of the sponsorship agency Synergy told reporters:

“The biggest trend in the last 10 years, and the social internet side of things has merely accelerated it, is that creating your own content has absolutely moved to the top of the agenda. The hackneyed old tickets, hospitality and perimeter boarding model is being left behind.”

In a branding effort that travel companies could appreciate, Red Bull has sponsored the efforts of base jumpers, free runners, snowboarders, cliff divers and BMX riders.

But rather than merely stick their name on athletic gear, they’ve aimed to completely control the media presentation of the sporting competitions.

felix baumgartner dive redbull red bull marketing social media travel

2. Hire top talent.

Red Bull has also studied lessons in the travel space. They hired Andrew D. Nystrom as global digital marketing director for social media, picking him up from his previous gig as senior producer of travel coverage at the Los Angeles Times’ website where he had proven himself as being innovative in growing a brand’s popularity on social media.

3. Broadcast directly to customers rather than use the mainstream media

The company’s effort to become a content creator has allowed it to avoid worrying about whether or not it can catch mainstream media interest, as it has created an audience of its own that it can reach through its own channels.

4. Give the mainstream media lots of royalty-free versions of your content in multiple formats.

When the worldwide press does come a calling, they’ll love the free content.

Doing something positive and aspirational also has a way of luring in the mainstream media and attracting attention amid all the noise and deluge of information.

Because it is such a bonkers event, the space jump cracked the jaded, crusty shell of journalists. It was a refreshing change to talk about the triumph of the human spirit. Breaking out of their typical narrative of doom-and-gloom, they were eager to share the story, thus amplifying Red Bull’s own efforts with free publicity from the world’s leading broadcasters and online publishers. Ad money couldn’t buy that contextual placement for the content.

5. Have a before, during, and after action plan.

Right after the daredevil landed safely, Red Bull asked followers on Twitter and Facebook what questions they might have to ask him. This push resulted in half of the worldwide trending topics on Twitter being about the company’s event.

6. Watch the details, and be careful of auto-programming messages without safety checks.

But it wasn’t all a smooth drop for the company, as they made a typo when posting congratulations to the stuntman, misspelling the word “count” and writing a foul-mouthed word instead.

The note remained on the site for 3 hours, says The Sun. Whoops.

CORRECTION: A Red Bull spokesperson says the ‘count’ typo that was actually on a fake Facebook page that’s been shut down. I regret linking to bad information.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. D

    Great article Sean, Felix is amazing and what a pioneer, but the sheer balls on Red Bull for having the aspiration to even consider this and then follow through with all the logistics, planning and a safe landing. It really was a marketing victory for the brand. Other drinks companies I could mention have spent decades strolling along and owe more to their success to their cost control measures and factories in mexico than any kind of stunt like this. Even watch companies and Perfumes, use things like the ubiquitous and annoying celebrities when they want to sell something , airplanes, yachts and fancy locations. Red Bull uses real people, real locations performing superhuman feets in real time, I’m not mad about their product but I admire their aspiration and desire to live up to what they say their product actually does i.e gives you wings, coated in caffeine but Felix was Flying thanks to their marketing budget

  2. Henk

    Red Bull is NOT a US company. Its actually Austrian/Thai owned based in Austria. I know its hard for an American to understand that great companies sometimes come from other countries …. you must have learned that at Bard College, right? 😉 …

    Besides that … nice article

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Hi, Henk,
      Ouch! As a Bard grad, I pride myself in striving to be aware of a world outside of the US.
      I should have been more precise.
      Red Bull North America. operates as a subsidiary of Red Bull. If there were a disaster, the lawsuits would be in the US and the insurance claims would be paid out in the US.
      But without question, Red Bull is an Austrian company owned by Dietrich Mateschitz and I should have been clear on that point.
      Apologies for the error.
      Thanks much,

  3. Brigantine new jersey real estate

    Since day one, Red Bull has been engaged in a no holds barred social media marketing campaign. There is hardly anyone that can match up to their online strategies.

  4. Nicolas

    #4 is very important. to give the mass media b-roll and footage gives them the chance to be part od the project. and they will report.
    in total: good summary!

  5. Rodney

    Fantastic article. I wonder if they’ll sell any more cans of redbull this year as a result? 🙂

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Glad you liked the article.
      Since I published it, Andrew Nystrom, the former journalist I mentioned, has announced he’s been hired away by nikefootball + nikesoccer as part of Nike’s build up.
      Could be an interesting growth in this type of event marketing.

  6. Lorenzo

    This is an excellent article. I agree with all the points.

  7. RobertKCole

    Good marketing points, but the key to success was the content of the event itself – an activity that offers insurmountable barriers for copycat competitors by attempting to break 4 world records simultaneously, including a couple that are over 50 years old.

    The event is also fully consistent with Red Bull’s branding and past sponsorship activities centered on extreme sports.

    Add in the potential for catastrophe during such an endeavor and there is a very short list of brands willing to take the risk:

    – Mountain Dew (Doubtful PepsiCo could muster the corporate will to back it)
    – Nike (Limited opportunities for special shoe or 45 kilo pressure suit clothing tie-ins)
    – Virgin (Even Richard Branson would not risk a high profile failure with Galactic yet to launch)

    On the event was perfect for Red Bull. Interestingly, the scale also promoted planning and safety to a much greater extent than some of the crazed athletes Red Bull sponsors who try to “go big” on a national stage (like the X Games) with disastrous results.

    Not sure if it will sell more energy drinks, but if a goal was exclusive brand impressions, they too may have broken some kind of record.

    Perhaps most importantly, Red Bull is privately held, so they were able to keep the total expenditure confidential while also avoiding potential problems with shareholders complaining about misappropriation of corporate funding, etc. – especially if the jump was unsuccessful.

    Two off topic points about the jump –

    It’s amazing that he failed to break the record for the longest freefall record because he shattered the speed record so soundly.

    By the way, what does that big red button on the right side of the capsule do?

    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Insightful comments, as usual!

      Fascinating to speculate about which brands would be daring enough to attempt something like that.

      One point: Because the company’s private, Red Bull can fortunately avoid shareholder wrath.

      I’m scared to ask what the red button on the right side of the capsule might do. But I was intrigued by the point that space tourism stands to benefit from this project because of all the thought that went into designing Baumgartner outfit.

      Best regards,

  8. Angie

    New Mexico, not Nevada.


Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel