Flying Off Into The Sunset
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
The Austrian energy drink that purportedly "gives you wings" had close ties to air sports ever since it entered the market more than 30 years ago. In fact, it didn't enter an existing market, it created a new one, in a new product category. Air sports were among the first this brand used as per its very particular sponsorship strategy to get the message across.
An Austrian Para Ski Team at the FAI World Championship in Snowbird, USA, back in 1995 comes to mind: I remember more than a dozen brand new parachutes with the two charging red bulls emblazoned on it ... As well as on the 12+ harness and container systems and every piece of casual wear worn by the members for the different occasions during a Para Ski competition: ski, après-ski and jumping! Altogether a site that had the participants on other teams dribble with envy - until they were given one of the RB baseball caps that the Austrians had brought along by the hundreds.
It was the beginning of an increasingly expansive partnership: air sports of the varied kind and an energy drink providing them wings. Paragliders, hang gliders, balloons, aerobatic aircraft, everything seemed to be flying under the taurine flag. And still does! Just a few months ago, 17-year-old indoor skydiver Kyra Poh from Singapore was announced as the air sport discipline's Red Bull Athlete, the second after Maja Kuczyńska from Poland.
By contrast and just this past weekend, the final curtain came down on one of the more enduring Red Bull platforms: the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. After close to 100 events and more than ten complete seasons, the spectacular racing in a format which was developed by Red Bull came to an end in Chiba, JPN. In an official statement released earlier, Red Bull pointed to the main reason for it to discontinue the RB Air Race. "It did not attract the level of outside interest as many other Red Bull events across the world."
"The FAI has been honored to be a partner of the Red Bull Air Race since 2005, and is sorry to see this fabulous air sports event being discontinued," says FAI President Robert Henderson upon completion of the final leg in Japan.
"The series has consistently provided sports entertainment of the highest quality, demonstrating incredible flying skills that have been enjoyed by millions of fans all over the world."
Most likely upstaged only by Red Bull's involvement in Formula One and football, and in Felix Baumgartner's skydive from the edge of space, air racing was a prominent but costly platform for the brand to generate awareness. Much like the Austrian company had invented a new category for its product, it had defined an entirely new strategy for most of its sports sponsorships as well. But the number of eyeballs still seems to count!