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The Big Brand Theory: Red Bull's Social Media Marketing

red bull social media marketing

In the mid-1980s, Dietrich Mateschitz and Chaleo Yoovidhya teamed up to create Red Bull. In the late '80s and early '90s, Mateschitz, the company’s CEO, leaned on guerilla marketing aimed at young dance club patrons. If you were a New York City or London DJ hoping to put on a party, chances are you were able to get Red Bull to send over a pile of product with some very attractive individuals to help pass it out.

The company continued their unconventional marketing by focusing on sports – particularly those that have a great deal of fan energy such as soccer, Formula One racing, and extreme sports. By the end of 2012, the energy drink company had sold over 6 billion dollars’ worth of product and sponsored countless sports teams, and most notably, the Red Bull Stratos jump.

The company’s marketing ethos has translated well into social media, perhaps even helping to shape big brand social media marketing across industries.  Brand expert David Aaker wrote, “I know of no other brand that has connected with customers so many ways.” A closer look at the company’s social profiles reveals some core tactics.

Rule Number One: Never Talk About…

One of the most remarkable aspects about Red Bull’s social media, is you never see community managers talking about the energy drink itself. Even Nike and Dove succumb to inserting promotional posts in their social – but Red Bull stays pure.  Occasionally there are product shots, along with the ubiquitous slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings.” What you do see, over and over, are photographs of people doing remarkable things: surfing, snowboarding, car racing, skateboarding – and usually in some extreme manner. That slogan can be felt in the very content itself.


The brand shares a wealth of beautiful photography and video, but when it comes to words, it goes for the pithy, short-and-sweet, keep-it-simple-stupid school of wordsmithing. Recent Facebook posts featured captions such as: “No better time than right now,” “Flipping spectacular,” and “Never turn down an adventure.”

You might describe Red Bull’s strategy as mainly publishing cool content. The community managers don’t have to spend too much time “engaging” – that’s mostly done by the fans, themselves. If the brand was to come to life and come knocking on your door, I’m sure it would be wearing sunglasses, and not have a lot to say.

Perhaps Red Bull fans are too busying leaping over cars and off of cliffs to enjoy a full paragraph, but then Red Bull also publishes a couple of magazines, Terra Mater and The Red Bulletin.


red bull marketing ethos

A rare display of witty humor from Red Bull in response to the government shutdown

Red Bull Media House

For years, marketing experts have been saying that brands need to become publishers, which is exactly what Red Bull did.  In addition to the magazines mentioned above, they have created their own record label, a recording studio company, an online radio channel, and more, all of which are under the rubric of the Red Bull Media House.

While it’s doubtful that revenues from the media side of the business will ever make up more than a fraction of the company’s wealth, it does signal that message and content are integral to the brand’s life force.


When Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner took the leap out of the balloon capsule that brought him to over 23 miles above the earth’s surface, he broke world records for the highest jump from a platform, highest manned balloon flight, fastest vertical velocity, and the longest distance free-fall.  A record was also broken for the most concurrent live stream views on YouTube: eight million. Red Bull knows how to make events an integral part of their marketing efforts.

A photo that Red Bull posted of Baumgartner’s safe landing was shared over 30,000 times within 40 minutes, and generated over 215,000 likes in the same period. Even after the event, a recent video made up of POV videos received over four million views within a week.

Red Bull has come a long way since they were passing out freebies in night clubs.


The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

Join The Conversation

  • RicDragon's picture
    Oct 29 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    Hi Kevin, thanks for the comment - love the revenue focus.  From my angle, in writing the post, I did not have access to anyone at RedBull - in fact, I was told that they do not discuss strategy with the press.  But I can tell you this from my research, that Red Bull's financials have indicated a continued ongoing growth in revenue, year-over-year.  The brand enjoyed a 40% increase in profits in 2012 from 2011. 

  • Oct 29 Posted 3 years ago KevinHorne

    if it's so great, how come not a single mention (by anyone, anywhere) about Red Bull SALES. REVENUES. BUSINESS IMPACT.

    Because Red Bull is basically marketing to its existing customers, day in and day out....

  • RicDragon's picture
    Oct 24 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    Right? At least if we have the attitude.  There are probably people out there who neither aspire to nor have  the gonzo attitude that Red Bull embodies. 

  • Oct 22 Posted 3 years ago reputationllc

    Red Bull marketing is really good and helping the brand's reputation. 

  • bbmcKinney's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago bbmcKinney

    Red Bull is exceptional in telling their brand story in so many compelling, involving ways. And though all of their activity is on-brand, it is far from a “focused” strategy. Taking the next step to building a profit center was not only a smart strategic move, it was the ultimate tribute to their brand building effort.

  • RicDragon's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    Thanks for commenting,Özlem,

    You're right - it IS interesting.   Basically, they post/publish GREAT content, and then just let the fans play with and bounce off of that content.  Engagement here is pretty close to nil - but it works for them. 

  • Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago Sara Parks

    Along those same lines, because it is not just focused on marketing the product but the people who use it, it can fit any lifestyle.  It is not targeted to only the people frequenting night clubs but active lifestyles and all professions.  Giving the people the power makes us feel special and like we can belong to the brand regardless of who we are/

  • Oct 21 Posted 3 years ago ozlem_050504

    I think the most critical strategy followed by Red Bull is that brand awareness/position is shaped by the fans or followers, not controlled too much by the community managers. It was free to use the brand and also related activities by not limiting promotions, advertising, introducing. Because the brand is not only the product, it has to include the meaning for people and life actually.

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