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Meet the World's Most Audacious Marketer

Sponsor a sky dive from 24 miles up? Just more proof that Red Bull has mastered the art of made-you-look marketing.
RECORD BREAKER The world's highest skydive, brought to you by the savvy, risk-taking marketing folks at Red Bull.

Red Bull doesn't launch mere advertising campaigns--it creates adrenaline-fueled spectacles. Last October, the energy-drink maker pulled off its most audacious one yet: sponsoring skydiver Felix Baumgartner's quest to break the world record for the highest altitude jump. Not only did Baumgartner smash the record--he free-fell 119,431 feet and hit a top speed of 843.6 mph--but his feat was watched live by more than eight million people on YouTube.

The event might have been dismissed as just a stunt, but Red Bull has built up street cred in an array of subcultures. The energy drink company turned media empire sponsors nearly 500 athletes worldwide in all manner of extreme sports--ranging from mountain biking to B.A.S.E. jumping, which involves parachuting from buildings, bridges, and other high points. Red Bull hosts attention-grabbing events such as the annual Red Bull Flugtag competition, in which teams of athletes and designers create their own manned flying machines and launch them off of a 30-foot ramp into a body of water. The company also publishes its own sports journal: The Red Bulletin.

"If you are a Red Bull athlete today, you know that you have reached a certain level in your sport... that in itself shows that you have 'made it' to a certain degree," says kitesurfer Robby Naish, who has been sponsored by Red Bull for almost 20 years, of the company's domination of the extreme sport industry. "It is still an energy drink, [but] Red Bull now also represents a certain approach to life."

To say that Red Bull is bottling a high-adrenaline lifestyle along with its liquid energy might be a safe bet--though the Austria-based company isn't giving anything away. "The marketing strategy that has worked best for us is not to publish our strategies," a Red Bull representative told Mashable in December. The company was equally hesitant to reveal any secret formulas--marketing or otherwise--to Inc. for this article. 

But industry insiders are watching closely and taking notes.

"What they do from an original-content perspective is crazy," says James Andrews, founder of Social People, a social-media consultancy that has worked with Red Bull in the past. "Once you look at their portfolio, you really see the breadth of their vision."

Last updated: Apr 18, 2013


Francesca Fenzi reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.

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