In 2005, one of the most successful PR stunts began. Red Bull and Austrian skydiver and base jumper Felix Baumgartner began groundwork for a stratospheric freefall planned to exceed human limits. Then, seven years later, on October 14, 2012, Baumgartner rose to 128,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and completed a freefall jump that had him rushing towards Earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting safely to the ground.
This was incredible, to say the least. He had become the first human to break the sound barrier in a freefall, while creating additional world records. Felix’s feat holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for space travel. But why was this jump so important in the world of PR?
One of the most successful brands when it comes to organizational PR stunts is without a doubt Red Bull. For decades they have been creating out of the ordinary, extreme stunts, all while positioning themselves as a brand that “gives you wings.” Instead of the actual flavor of the drink, they chose to focus on the ideals that their drink offers to consumers.
Why did this work so well for Red Bull?
They were brave and aimed high. Stratos was an extremely bold project to take on. Ambitious campaigns can be created for any company, even without massive funds.
“Red Bull has hopefully inspired marketers to demand more from ourselves. Sure, not all companies have the budget to send a man into space, but everyone has the capacity to set themselves a higher standard and not just settle for a mediocre concept,” says We Are Social Global MD, Robin Grant.
They were dedicated to their idea. Red Bull never once wavered from the mission. Even when they were faced with doubt and some slight setbacks, they continued on.
“Stratos demonstrated commitment on an unprecedented scale,” said Grant. “It showed determination and dedication to the idea, even when it didn’t look like it would happen,” adds Taylor Herring Co-Founder, James Herring.
They had a captivating story. All issues that were encountered along the way were used to Red Bull’s advantage. This was done by sharing their experiences along the way with their audience.
“Transparency and honesty are key in modern communications. The reason the Red Bull story was so compelling was because it was so dramatic, and let’s face it, there were many times it looked like it wouldn’t happen… Red Bull had the guts to show it,” said Absolute Radio Communications Director Cat Macdonald.
They brought something of worth. The emphasis during the mission was on the scientific and medical records that could be acquired through the jump. Red Bull provided data that may lead to advancements in space travel in the future.
“It wasn’t just about a quick stunt or clever creative. Red Bull offered something of real value by championing the more “serious” scientific side of Stratos, as well as the extreme sports element. By doing this, Red Bull created a campaign that even captured the imagination of PR cynics,” commented Grant.
They tried a new type of media. Red Bull’s decision to broadcast the jump through a live stream on YouTube was groundbreaking. It was a complete game changer. They realized that YouTube is a perfect channel to target its core audience and they went with it.
“It was the first time we saw a groundbreaking and creative use of YouTube in PR. People usually believe TV is the place where big moments happen,” said Herring.
What was the result?
Sponsoring Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump provided Red Bull with massive global exposure as well as public approval. Red Bull achieved thousands of followers and fans on various social media networks. There were over three million tweets and it was the most talked about topic for days. This buzz created amazing engagement opportunities for the brand.
The campaign not only spread throughout social media, but also received remarkable mainstream media coverage internationally, making the front pages of numerous leading publications. It generated loads of publicity, not only because it was an extreme challenge, but because they were willing to invest in improving society. Like Jonas Feliciana, beverage industry analyst at Euromonitor International, said, “This is taking it to a whole new level. It has turned a PR event into a news event.”
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