This past week I attended several Red Bull Thre3style events in Toronto. Having been impressed by these events when I attended last year in Vancouver, this year I was equally impressed by the caliber of both the event production and the international talent competing. The goal: to find the world’s best party-rocking DJ in a series of head-to-head battles at venues throughout Toronto, with various special events and guests featured along the way. The sound, the visuals, the corresponding web promotions–all of superb quality.
This annual event seems pretty big but it’s just a small part of Red Bull’s consistently mind-blowing marketing and sponsorship initiatives. You may remember a recent one in which they sponsored famous BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner as he shattered records and jumped from the edge of space to earth. No big deal.
Red Bull isn’t simply a company that produces the world’s most popular (albeit yucky tasting) energy drink. It’s a massive multi-media conglomerate that pumps seemingly endless funds into sports teams, feature films, amazing parties, and even its own record label. And they offer their high quality content up for editorial use (including over 50,000 photos and 5,000 hours of video) by producers, publishers, news agencies, and TV stations through the Red Bull Content Pool.
This is content marketing at its finest: creating excellent content for consumption by your target audience (and repurposing it for use by other media outlets), keeping your brand front and centre in their minds. It could be as simple as the little bull logo on the side of Felix’s helmet, or on a spinning record, or on the helicopter that drops extreme snowboarders into dangerous territory in the brand’s first (and gorgeously produced) feature film ‘The Art of Flight’. Red Bull creates extreme content designed to amaze, and doesn’t let you forget that their energy drink is the fuel.
Here are some lessons from Red Bull on how to amaze your audience with your content to elevate your brand to extreme awareness levels.
Have lots of money
Ok, ok. Red Bull happens to have millions to spend on marketing and sponsorships, and perhaps you don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn some things from their approach.
Don’t just share your knowledge and demonstrate how smart you are (or in this case, how effective your energy drink is as helping you get through that all-nighter)–make it entertaining. People are far more likely to talk about your content and share it if it has entertainment value (when’s the last time you saw a white paper go viral?) Make them laugh, make them feel something, surprise them, blow them away. Don’t just sponsor a DJ competition–produce one of the most entertaining DJ competitions the world has ever seen (or whatever fits your budget).
Red Bull didn’t simply follow the lead of other sports drinks and sponsor athletes; they take it a step further and sponsor extreme athletes and even produce their own extremely unique sporting events and challenges (from the Red Bull Soapbox Race to the Red Bull Stratos Space Jump), blowing the competition’s standard approach out of the water. Challenge your audience to think about things in a different way. Write about your subject matter in a way your competition hasn’t even fathomed.
Do it well
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Creating high quality content and putting it on the web can only benefit you. It has longevity and will continue to bring you rewards for as long as it exists online (like Red Bull’s Content Pool). That’s a relatively small investment for something that will continue to deliver rewards. Create evergreen content and the rewards might even last until our alien overlords blow up all computers.
Don’t think in terms of immediate financial gain
Red Bull understands that content marketing isn’t something that demonstrates immediate, measurable ROI. It’s similar to business development in that you’re building a lasting relationship with your target market. In the Thre3style competition, for example, Red Bull is solidifying their trend-setter status by proving their fluency in coolness. This association provides long-term value rather than short-term padding of the bottom line.
And the company’s founder and visionary Dietrich Mateschitz doesn’t care if these things turn an immediate financial profit. He believes they provide incredible value in other ways, and he’s right. People might not go out and buy a can of Red Bull immediately after the space jump, but when the whole world is watching your event, you can’t deny the value of that kind of brand recognition. Bloomberg.com calls this approach “a lot more interesting than writing a check to buy a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl”. I mean, the guy owns an island, so perhaps he’s onto something.