Red Bull – Activating Properties at Point of Sale

Guest post from David Nichols, Managing Partner, Head of Invention (and flying nut)

Red Bull have taken their activation based marketing to the next level by bringing it to the point of sale.  They have spent years building unique activation properties with both local and world wide sports events – MotorCross, Air Racing, Ice Hockey and their famous Flugtag – but mostly these has stayed as separate activations and not been brought into the purchase environment directly. Until now.  Their latest POS takes their Red Bull Air Race property and links it directly into consumption-driving communication:

Red Bull Air Race at POS 2

Red Bull Air Race at POS

Red Bull have also been ensuring that their athletes are seen to be actually drinking their product.  Again, this seems to be a recent development, certainly in my passion area of flying.  Seeing the World Champion pilot Paul Bonhomme neck a can of Red Bull before he flies 30ft above the water at 200mph demonstrates its functional potency to me!

Red Bull Bonnhomme + Can
The local marketing team in Poland have gone one step further and created a specific Air Race TVC that showcases the Polish races and their local pilot drinking a can of Red Bull, here.

So why is Red Bull is taking this approach now?  Competition is hotting up in energy drinks.  Monster Energy is almost as big as Red Bull worldwide and gaining share.  ‘5-Hour’ energy shots have created a ‘shots’ category that is stealing share.  Red Bull is no longer the challenger brand vs soft drinks, but is the encumbent brand leader in a huge category it has created.  It now has to compete head to head with direct competition.

What are the benefits of this new approach?:

  • Don’t change your brand, change your tactics: Red Bull hasn’t had a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to competitive encroachment by claiming to be ‘the best energy drink’ or even ‘no one gives you more energy’.  Instead it is smartly leveraging its assets to drive its core message home better.
  • More value from brand properties: The Red Bull Air Race is now one of their strongest and most global brand properties.  This activity leverages value from it specifically to drive sales.  Even Red Bull have to show ROI on their investments, and though I doubt they do the direct calculation, this is a smart way to get more return on their investment to date.
  • New benefit to drive penetration: “Need to Focus” is a new expression of the functional benefit you can gain from Red Bull.  I assume that consumer research has shown that a significant proportion of people at service stations are not just looking for ‘stay awake’ energy for mental alertness.  This is trying to makes the drink relevant to a new consumer group – hence driving penetration.
  • Cool with a purpose: Of course the Air Race pilots are cool athletes and give ‘cool creds’ to the brand.  This works even better because they are using the product for a purpose – to increase mental alertness (they certainly don’t need help to stay awake!).  This is ‘cool with a purpose’, not just ‘badging’.  This reinforces the functional intrinsics of the product directly within the extrinsic communication.


Red Bull has evolved its marketing communication model to better leverage its brand activation assets so that it can compete more effectively with strengthening competition.  Too often brands in this situation get on the defensive and focus their comms on their competitors.  Red Bull are sticking to their core message but putting fresh impetus behind it.  Smart.