This is your four minute warning: how can Red Bull make those seconds really count?

Red Bull StratosIn this guest post, Adam Hodge asks what value a blink-and-miss-it event can have for a brand long term, and how Red Bull can possibly recoup its investment.

On Sunday morning Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a pressurised capsule more than 36km above the earth and began a 4 minute free-fall into the record books. But what value can a brand like Red Bull get from an event that is over in a matter of minutes? 

Red Bull Stratos is the most recent in a long line of extreme sport and adventure activities that the Austrian energy drink brand has become famous for around the globe. This event saw 43 year old skydiving daredevil Baumgartner jump from a stratospheric balloon on the edge of space in an attempt to be the first human to break the sound barrier during free fall.

The 4 odd minutes of free-fall were viewed live around the globe via the 100+ media partners of the mission, including the BBC, Discover Channel, ABC (US), TVNZ and our own 7Mate and Yahoo!7.

YouTube’s live stream of the event racked up over 8m viewers just before Baumgartner took his death-defying plunge.

According to AllThingsD, the previous record for a single Web video service was “around 500,000 concurrent streams, which Google served up during the Olympics this summer.”

These media numbers would suggest this was a big success for Red Bull, but I reckon the real value can only be calculated once you consider the likely cost. While there has been no official release of the 5 year mission budget, news outlets have suggested that the first aborted jump cost the project over $60,000 in helium alone and that a single balloon (of which they had more than one) cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Let’s guess that the mission has cost Red Bull $10m over the entire 5 year period. Conservative, I reckon.

Considering a 30-second commercial in the US during the Super Bowl (the most expensive ad spot in the world) is around $3.5m, a little under three times this investment has garnered Red Bull not only a LOT more eyeballs and time on screen for the jump itself, it has also produced hundreds of hours of video content, several years of PR attention and a massive amount of social media fodder.

The day after the jump, the Stratos Facebook Page has 629,579 likes and a massive 277,363 people talking about it. This ‘talking about ratio’ of 44% is 10 times higher than the Red Bull main profile (4.44%) and 20 times more than Coca-Cola (1.98%), suggesting that it is actively engaging its audience rather than just generating millions of static likes.

Stratos is a perfect example of the sometimes overlooked pre-event amplification value of sponsorship. Given the ‘moment in time’ nature of the mission, Red Bull has capitalised on the multi-year build up to extract every drop of promotional value from the event before Baumgartner even stepped into the jump suit. Some might even say the first aborted mission was an (unexpected?) boon for the brand attracting additional attention (a bit like a preview screening) and boosting viewers for the subsequent successful jump.

While the news and interest in the mission is likely to now die off quickly, I would say that Red Bull have gained all the value they could have ever wanted and more. Once again they have proven the power of unique and dedicated sponsorship in garnering maximum attention and all while using a platform that both emotionally and rationally reinforces their ‘gives you wings’ positioning.

Congratulations Felix.

And congratulations RedBull.

Adam Hodge is strategy director at Octagon Sydney. This article first appeared on the Octagon blog.


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