You could be forgiven for forgetting that Red Bull sells more than 5 billion cans of soft drink a year. For every logo you see on a can of energy drink, there must be another five plastered on screaming Formula One cars, upside-down motorcycles, stunt planes and skateboards. Red Bull almost single-handedly created the energy drink market we know today, piggybacking on the rise of extreme sports to get its brand out there ... and delivering some truly memorable marketing stunts along the way. Here's our five favorites.
Twenty-six years ago, Austrian marketing executive Dietrich Mateschitz stumbled upon a syrupy tonic drink in Thailand that was used by locals as a pick-me-up. Despite being told that nobody liked the flavor, the logo, or the "Red Bull" brand he slapped on it, he ran with it, turning it into a massive global success and more or less creating the bustling energy drinks market we know today.
Sick of Ads?
Join more than 500 New Atlas Plus subscribers who read our newsletter and website without ads.
It's just US$19 a year.More Information
Today, Forbes estimates Mateschitz's net worth at around US$9 billion dollars – and the Red Bull logo is now absolutely ubiquitous, splashed across just about everything fast, exciting or dangerous.
That's no exaggeration. Red Bull has jumped in and filled the void left when governments around the world cracked down on cigarette advertising in sports. The company now owns no less than 3 Formula One teams, as well as a stack of soccer teams, and it sponsors just about any mainstream sport put before it.
But in addition to these, the company has become well known for its sponsorship of extreme sports – and for making spectacular videos of all sorts of unbelievable daredevil stunts. And it's these we want to celebrate today.
David Coulthard fangs a few donuts on the Burj Al Arab’s helipad
What better way to celebrate Red Bull's fourth Formula One championship than by busting out a few donuts on the helipad of a US$1500-a-night luxury hotel in Dubai? When Sebastian Vettel was fined 25,000 Euro for performing a similar stunt on a racetrack, in front of thousands of motorsport fans, Red Bull decided that clearly the Burj-al-Arab hotel's helipad was a far more appropriate place for such shenanigans. Why? Why the hell not?
Paul Steiner changes planes mid-air
The Akte Blanix (connecting flight) 2 video shows an Austrian skydiver climbing out of the cockpit of a glider, shimmying along the wing, leaning forward and somersaulting off the edge to grab a pair of handles, where he patiently hangs until a second glider rolls up beneath him and he drops down onto it.
From there, he stands on the back of the second glider as the first comes in upside down until he can grab its tail fin. Extraordinary stuff.
Robbie Maddison jumps on to the top of the Vegas Arc de Triomphe ... and back down again
Red Bull is big on New Year celebrations, but this one raised the bar in a way that would've impressed Evel Kneivel. Australian daredevil motorcyclist Robbie Maddison already had a back pocket full of freestyle motocross jumping world records and plenty of photos of himself upside down on a motorcycle and 50 feet up in the air, but he outdid himself when he leapt 96 feet onto the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Las Vegas.
His petrified fiancée Amy looking on, he then waved to the crowd, circled around and rode straight off the ledge. In what looks like a slight wobble in the video, he tore a hole in his left hand on what was otherwise a pretty decent landing.
Danny MacAskill does inhuman things on a bicycle
Red Bull spotted this Scottish street trials wizard's first video online and scooped him up to produce more like it - including this beauty, in which MacAskill turns every solid surface between Edinburgh and his native Dunvegan, Skye into a showcase for his other-worldly cycling skills.
Flipping, spinning, balancing and leaping in a fluid motion through the landscape, MacAskill's amazing videos have come at a cost - he estimates that he's spent two thirds of the time between 2009 and 2013 recovering from the many and varied injuries he's piled up in pursuit of the perfect trick. Luckily, his contract with Red Bull extends to full medical coverage.
Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive from the edge of space
…and of course, the big Daddy of them all. When Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepped out of his balloon-lifted capsule and into the stratosphere, numbers started flying around like crazy: the record 128,100-foot height of the jump; the 833.9 mph top speed he reached; the 300-man team supporting the Red Bull Stratos operation from the ground; the US$30 million estimated cost of the stunt ... and the 8 million people around the world who tuned in to watch the YouTube live stream.
It was the most extreme marketing stunt of our generation – perhaps the most extreme of all time – and it appeared to pay off, with some 40 TV stations and 130 digital outlets broadcasting the event, and more than 3.1 million tweets going out. This was the new world of marketing: a man just passed the speed of sound outside of a vehicle, falling through the stratosphere, to promote an energy drink.
When people do berserk stunts like these, there's bound to be a few casualties, and Red Bull is facing criticism from some corners that it's putting lives at risk just about every time it puts an event on.
Still, the athletes are well aware of the risks they take, and more often than not, these spectacular stunts are their own idea. And we wouldn't love watching them fly so high if there wasn't the risk they'd be burned by the sun.
Source: Red BullView gallery - 37 images