Question: What’s the easiest way to get an entire city to talk about your product?
Answer: Throw a free party.
On Saturday, October 18, Red Bull invaded the streets of San Francisco with their Soapbox Derby, and over 100,000 people showed up to cheer on the teams.
However, as I looked around and thought about the millions of dollars that must go into each Red Bull event, I realized that it’s not about just the people that show up on the day of the event; it’s about reaching every man, woman and child in that city and making sure your product is on their minds the next time they’re at a store.
Because if you lived in San Francisco, it was impossible to avoid.
Red Bull had flags lining all of the major streets, posters, postcards and fliers on every car and in every store, geo-targeted banner ads on every major website, radio and TV ads on every station, and an incredible amount of word-of-mouth buzz during the weeks leading up to the event. If you managed to live in San Francisco and not hear about the Red Bull Soapbox Derby at least once, then you need to get out more.
So what’s the advantage of throwing a huge free party that you just give your product away at?
Two things: Brand association and Brand recognition.
Red Bull sponsors a ton of crazy events, and every action sport has at least one Red Bull sponsored participant in it, if not a whole team full. In addition, many of these events are exclusively sponsored by Red Bull, such as the Soapbox Derby, Air Race, and Flugtag, a human powered flight event that’s like a parade on the edge of (and then over) a cliff.
By blanketing the sponsorship market, Red Bull has cornered their target market in a way that no company has managed before. It’s not just a soapbox derby, it’s the Red Bull Soapbox derby. It’s not just a Formula One team, it’s the Red Bull Formula One team, and so on. The brand becomes synonymous with the event, the teams, and the participants, and Red Bull becomes more than just a logo, it becomes a movement.
In addition, by making their events free to attend, Red Bull is able to expand outside of their target market and reach those that wouldn’t be inclined to go to the local drifting race or snowmobile competition, but would attend a free event because that’s what everyone else was doing as well. The young, the old, the active and the observers were all there, and all begging for a free can of Red Bull that the lovely drink ladies were passing out of Red Bull shaped backpacks.
If that doesn’t give your brand wings, nothing will.
The end result is that you the consumer associate Red Bull with the wild, wacky, and extreme sports that they sponsor, and you instantly recognize the blue and white can with the red bulls from the helmet of your favorite skateboarder, the side of your favorite race car, or the signs at the soapbox derby event that you just got back from. It’s a simple, easily recognizable, and well-established bit of branding, and when you’re staring at hundreds of new energy drinks in the beverage isle of your local super market or convenience store, it’s the simple and the recognized that often wins out over the flashy, the new, and the improved.
- Huge amounts of brand recognition and brand association.
- Perfectly targeted market.
- Free event opens the market up to new demographics.
- Captured the attention of a large and influential metropolis for an entire day.
- Wacky theme makes this a must cover event for major media.
- Provided messaging for all other forms of marketing.
- Very high costs mean you need to sell a lot of product to see an ROI.
- Market can get over saturated with your brand and your messaging.
- Throwing a huge free party lets you own an entire market for a day, but high costs mean you better get it right, because there’s a fine line between not enough, and way too much.