Friday, October 19, 2012

The Greatest Marketing Stunt of All Time?

When I woke up last Sunday morning, the first thing I did was check my Twitter feed. Almost every single Tweet directed me to a live YouTube stream of Felix Baumgartner, an Australian skydiver minutes away from jumping down to Earth from an altitude of 128,000 feet and becoming the first person ever to break the sound barrier.

I watched in awe, along with the rest of the world, as Baumgaterner landed safely on the ground, breaking three world records for the highest jump, longest free fall, and highest vertical velocity and forever changing my perception of the word 'marketing.'

Over 8 million people watched the YouTube Live stream of the Redbull-sponsored event that day, which beat out viewership of President Obama's inauguration ceremony. The jump was shown by over 40 TV channels and 130 digital outlets. And Red Bull's coverage of the event earned the brand about 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments, and over 29,000 shares on Facebook within 40 minutes.

While it's difficult to predict if Red Bull's mass exposure will immediately translate into an increase in sales, one thing is for sure: this was infinitely more compelling than the typical, eye-roll worthy PR stunts we've become accustomed to. The event signifies a breakthrough in content marketing and serves as a bellwether for the shifting landscape of storytelling through marketing and entertainment in general.

In fact, according to Huffington Post's Janean Chun, the energy-drink-turned media company "broke the traditional barriers of marketing, sponsorship and social media, skyrocketing from an energy drink known for providing a quick buzz to a big-time generator of international buzz that makes the endeavors of other marketing innovators like Apple look small by comparison."

To me, the spectacle doesn't come as a huge shock given the brand's history of hosting massive and buzzworthy events, like the Red Bull Air Race and Supernatural Snowboarding Competition. Over the past few years the brand has become the name and face behind anything extreme, producing content and providing experiences to its loyal audience of skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, and other extreme athletes. But if the massive following behind last weekend's event is any indication, Redbull's audience from this point forward will now greatly extend beyond a niche group of adventurists to capture anyone and everyone itching to see something they've never seen before.

Clearly the event pulled off was not without great risk, but in this case the payoff was high reward. Redbull did everything right in crafting a story, delivering content, and extending the conversation well beyond the event's duration. And not only has it left a lasting impression on anyone with internet access and a screen, its also earned Redbull a huge chunk of ownable content and intellectual property particularly because of the synergy between the event itself and the company's tagline: "Redbull gives you wings." Baumgartner didn't need to crack open a Redbull, take a swig, and take the plunge down to Earth. We got it; the message was just inherently there.

If this is indeed the new standard of marketing, we all have a lot of work to do.

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