Supersonic Skydive Gives Wings to Red Bull’s Marketing Efforts
It takes a lot to drag diehard pro football fans away from their Sunday games. But we’re guessing that during the afternoon of Oct. 14, more than a few of those fans dialed up YouTube on their “second screens” – laptops, tablets and smartphones already in use for tracking fantasy football leagues – to check out Felix Baumgartner’s historic skydive from the edge of space.
Social media feeds served as breaking news alerts to let everyone know that Baumgartner was getting ready to step off the short ladder from his balloon’s capsule. Twitter updates steered the curious to the Discovery Channel or YouTube for live coverage of the daredevil event. (CNN, in what has to be the strangest use yet of “an abundance of caution,” cut away from the live feed just before Baumgartner made his jump, apparently to protect everyone from seeing the chance of a tragic outcome. Imagine that thinking in place 43 years ago when the late, great Neil Armstrong made his giant leap for mankind from Tranquility Base.)
Those who watched live – a record 8 million on YouTube – couldn’t miss the “Red Bull Stratos” legend burned into the corner of their screens as Baumgartner jumped from 23 miles up in the air, higher than any human has ever skydived.
And therein lies the genius of what is, on the surface, a marketing stunt for an energy drink.
But what a stunt! And it was one constructed for our new media age. Red Bull was indeed the sponsor; the brand named the entire effort “Red Bull Stratos.” Yet the viral nature of the coverage combined with the aeronautical history of the moment to ensure that the Baumgartner/Red Bull stunt would crossover into the mainstream media spotlight and wouldn’t look like a very expensive commercial for a beverage that college kids chug while studying for finals.
Examine the visual elements involved: the requisite dangerous undertaking from 128,000 feet up, a daredevil in a helmet wearing what looked an awful lot like a spacesuit, and a shiny silver capsule. There was a mission control team and a countdown. Yet instead of NASA, Walter Cronkite and network news cameras, you had countless commentators narrating the event via Twitter and YouTube for a commercial brand.
Brilliant. This echo of past heroism – in full view of anyone with a network modem – was brought to you by those thinking far outside the boxes of marketing and advertising.