Written by Katy Campbell • Published 07th November 2012
Felix Baumgartner jumped into the stratosphere from a balloon floating on the edge of space, a whopping 24 miles above Earth. He broke three world records in the process and held eight million people glued to the livestream on YouTube. This breathtaking and dangerous stunt was YouTube’s biggest livestreamed event to date.
Red Bull sponsored the entire display, pushing a giant promotional leap for the brand. The stakes were high, in every possible sense, as this promised to be either an awe-inspiring spectacle or one of the most gruesome publicity stunts of all time. As anyone who watched the livestream knows, nerves were running pretty high.
There was scope for a lot of things to go wrong throughout the four-minute free fall. As Baumgartner plummeted down to Earth at speeds reaching 834 mph it was only his pressured flight suit that prevented his fluids from turning to gas. There was also a terrifying moment when Felix began to spin uncontrollably before regaining his composure. It is pretty clear that Felix had to have nerves of steel to pull off the stunt and thankfully he landed safely, even on his feet, in the middle of the New Mexico Desert.
Of course Red Bull had also taken a risk through their association with such a daredevil activity. The company pumped millions of dollars into preparations for the event, which began seven years previously. The company’s appeal is youthful and edgy and everyone knows that, ‘Red Bull gives you wings.’ It’s easy to see how their sponsorship of the jump fits in with the brand’s image but even so, this was a huge investment and there were questions as to whether it would pay off.
Other promotions have included everything from Flugtag – a homemade, human-powered flying machine competition, to the funding of extreme sports, climbing, free falling and Mountain biking. The Red Bull Stratos mission took things one step further.
In the end, the publicity seems to have been as extreme as the act itself. Press around the world reported the event and even as it was happening it became a hit on Facebook and Twitter, with more and more people sharing the link to the live stream as Baumgartner ascended in the balloon.
When Baumgartner landed Red Bull posted a picture of him alive and well on his landing. This was then shared on Facebook more than 29,000 times, with 216,000 likes and more than 10,000 comments within 40 minutes. Soon after landing, Red Bull collected questions for Baumgartner on Facebook and Twitter, promising that he would answer three at a post-jump news conference.
The Twittersphere was also buzzing as the jump took place, with half the worldwide trending topics on Twitter being related to Baumgartner’s antics. He even managed to overshadow Justin Bieber for a brief but beautiful moment in time. Red Bull’s name has been flashed everywhere and their association with the leap seems to have paid off. Although we are still to see whether sales actually increase, we can be certain that they managed to get people talking.
The prospect of something going horrifically wrong must have been a daunting prospect to Red Bull. With eight million pairs of eyes glued to their screens, there was potential for a PR nightmare. In the end, they pulled it off to a spectacular degree. And of course, you can’t position yourself as a risk-taking brand without taking a few risks.