That’s one crazy step for man, one gutsy step for marketing kind. I’m writing of course about Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumping from a balloon, lifted courtesy of Red Bull, some 24 miles above the surface of the Earth. Baumgartner isn’t likely to need his own adrenaline boost for a long time. During his free-fall, he broke the sound barrier, accelerating to Mach 1.24. He also shot through the ceiling of what companies will do to push their brand.
I can’t help but think of that now seemingly quaint jingle, “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” and wonder, “Would you risk blood boiling, lungs exploding?” Baumgartner did, and Red Bull risked broadcasting it to the entire planet. We’ve clearly reached a different altitude than that of sponsorship stunts past. But just how insane was Red Bull’s skydiving project and what can we learn about how to get sponsorship from the event?
A Fine Madness
Putting aside for a moment the scientific nature of the Stratos mission (Baumgartner’s success might have implications for astronauts potential ability to survive high altitude disasters), there is a good deal of calculation behind Red Bull’s madness. As Giles Fraser, co-founder of Brands2Life, points out in an interview with The Telegraph, Red Bull has been in the game of unique sponsorship for some time. Instead of putting their logo on a Nascar vehicle, they have their own Formula One racing team.
Giles also shrewdly noted that while the brand was certainly very public throughout the stunt, logo placement was relatively subtle, far from over the top, dare I say tastefully displayed. What’s more, the event had been in the making for seven years. Baumgartner’s leap was a thoroughly planned, well-financed, carefully orchestrated event. Not as streaking as the broadcast coverage would lead us to believe.
This praise pains me some. Nothing will persuade me to drink a RedBull. I can’t stand the taste nor can I imagine subjecting my body to such a wallop of caffeine or sugar. I think we’d be healthier without RedBull around, but I have to admit that the company’s participation in such a bizarre, singular feat, erased a lot of the negative feelings I had for the company. It’s hard to fault Red Bull’s audacity at least.
Before You Leap
Original stunts are not for everyone. Red Bull speaks the language of an adventurous crowd. If your startup is geared toward internet security or hopes to become the next digital wallet, you don’t want customers associating your company with high-risks–they’ll be darting away from you faster than Baumgartner zipping through the stratosphere.
KIT KAT tried to tag along for the ride with Red Bull. The company sent its candy bar up in a weather balloon to 116,490 feet, slightly shy of Baumgartner’s capsule at 127,000ft. Video footage of a KIT KAT in near orbit brought in a paltry 10,000 views compared to the 8 million views for Red Bull (not to mention 3 million tweets). It took days before I’d even heard about KIT KAT’s involvement. Maybe they’re happy with what they got for what they paid, but the effort seems a little lame in the grand scheme.
Where Will The Trend Go?
“What’s next?” is the question the free-fall stunt begs. Baumgartner himself has said that he’s done with the extreme jumps and returning to the comparatively low-risk dangerous work of piloting helicopters on rescue missions. At some point, spectacle becomes pointless if the feats risked become increasingly dangerous or outrageous.
Brilliant risk? Worth emulating? Silly one and done deal? Let KillerStartups know what you think in the comment section below.