PR Case Study: The Red Bull Community

A potent energy boost for action sports.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Advertisment

Instead of talk­ing about itself, Red Bull built a community.

At its core, Red Bull is not a unique product.
The mar­ket is replete with energy drinks. 1Red Bull. (2023, April 6). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​R​e​d​_​B​ull

However, Red Bull diverged from tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing tac­tics, choos­ing to cre­ate a vibrant com­munity of action sports enthu­si­asts and devotees.

The brand’s stra­tegic, cour­ageous, and endur­ing efforts to estab­lish this com­munity offer valu­able insights for PR pro­fes­sion­als.

Learn more:

The Great Misconception: “Action Sports Are Not Real Sports”

In the early days of action sports, the broad­er sports com­munity often dis­missed these activ­it­ies as little more than atten­tion-grabbing diver­sions for thrill-seekers and non-com­pet­it­ive individuals. 

Consequently, many in the sports world failed to recog­nise the genu­ine ath­let­ic ded­ic­a­tion, dis­cip­line, and tal­ent that action sports prac­ti­tion­ers pos­sessed, instead cat­egor­ising them as indi­vidu­als more con­cerned with social media recog­ni­tion and per­son­al gratification.

This dis­missive atti­tude slowly shif­ted as action sports gained vis­ib­il­ity through social media and oth­er plat­forms. A grow­ing audi­ence became increas­ingly cap­tiv­ated by the unique blend of cre­ativ­ity, ath­leti­cism, and dar­ing that action sports demanded. 

Yet, crit­ics con­tin­ued to argue that the lack of stand­ard­ised com­pet­i­tion formats and the sports’ appar­ent pri­or­it­isa­tion of style over sub­stance pre­cluded them from being taken ser­i­ously with­in the broad­er ath­let­ic community.

Empowering Action Sports Athletes by “Giving Them Wings”

In a bold move to dif­fer­en­ti­ate itself with­in a sat­ur­ated energy drink mar­ket, Red Bull stra­tegic­ally decided to cham­pi­on action sports ath­letes. The com­pany under­stood the untapped poten­tial of these ath­letes and the unique appeal of their sports. 

Red Bull effect­ively posi­tioned itself as a vital sup­port­er of this grow­ing com­munity by endors­ing, spon­sor­ing, and organ­ising events for action sports prac­ti­tion­ers. This approach allowed the brand to forge strong con­nec­tions with ath­letes and fans, cre­at­ing a loy­al fol­low­ing that exten­ded far bey­ond the reach of con­ven­tion­al advert­ising campaigns.

To main­tain a cohes­ive PR strategy, Red Bull embraced the concept of indi­vidu­als soar­ing spec­tac­u­larly through the air as their Core Message. This power­ful imagery aligned seam­lessly with the company’s slo­gan, “giv­ing people wings,” and rein­forced the idea that Red Bull was not only a source of energy — but also an ena­bler of extraordin­ary feats.

  • The basic rule of beha­vi­our­al psy­cho­logy is that you get more of what you reinforce.

By incor­por­at­ing this mes­sage into its mar­ket­ing and PR efforts, the brand effect­ively cap­tured the essence of action sports — dar­ing, exhil­ar­at­ing, and grav­ity-defy­ing — and used it to forge a spe­cial con­nec­tion with its audience.

This brand align­ment with the world of action sports has paid dividends for Red Bull. The company’s com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing these ath­letes and organ­ising high-pro­file events has elev­ated its image from a mere pur­vey­or of energy drinks to an influ­en­tial play­er in the sports and enter­tain­ment industries. 

Uplifting and Legitimising the Action Sports Community

Today, action sports have tran­scen­ded their pre­vi­ous status as recre­ation­al activ­it­ies and are now widely acknow­ledged as legit­im­ate ath­let­ic endeav­ours. This shift in per­cep­tion is mainly due to the grow­ing com­munity of action sports ath­letes who have demon­strated incred­ible ded­ic­a­tion, skill, and tal­ent in their respect­ive disciplines. 

Red Bull’s pat­ron­age has been crit­ic­al in this trans­form­a­tion. The brand’s back­ing has giv­en ath­letes the resources and oppor­tun­it­ies to hone their abil­it­ies and show­case their tal­ents glob­ally — and oth­er brands have fol­lowed suit. 2Van den Steen, Eric, and Carin-Isabel Knoop. Red Bull (A). Harvard Business School Case 714 – 401, March 2014. (Revised March 2018.) http://​hbr​.org/​p​r​o​d​u​c​t​/​R​e​d​-​B​ull – A-/an/714401-PDF-ENG

The increas­ing involve­ment of brands has pro­foundly impacted the industry. With more resources, spon­sor­ships, and oppor­tun­it­ies avail­able to ath­letes, the level of com­pet­i­tion has ris­en, lead­ing to more sig­ni­fic­ant innov­a­tion and pro­gres­sion with­in each discipline. 

This sup­port, in turn, helps legit­im­ise action sports fur­ther, as it demon­strates that sig­ni­fic­ant brands recog­nise the value and appeal of these activ­it­ies in terms of ath­let­ic achieve­ment and marketability.

Furthermore, the grow­ing interest in action sports has expan­ded the audi­ence for these activ­it­ies, provid­ing addi­tion­al rev­en­ue streams and expos­ure for ath­letes and the brands that sup­port them. In this way, Red Bull’s pion­eer­ing approach has trans­formed its brand and reshaped the energy drink industry landscape.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom to Build a Community

Red Bull iden­ti­fied an oppor­tun­ity to con­nect with a group of indi­vidu­als often over­looked or dis­missed by the broad­er sports com­munity — the “stu­pid major­ity.” In this instance, the term refers to those who under­es­tim­ated action sports prac­ti­tion­ers’ ath­let­ic prowess and ded­ic­a­tion, often due to a lack of under­stand­ing or famili­ar­ity with these sports. 

By align­ing with the ”smart minor­ity” and sup­port­ing action sports ath­letes, Red Bull tapped into a dynam­ic and under­served mar­ket eager for recog­ni­tion and validation.

Instead of pour­ing resources into pro­mot­ing its product, Red Bull shif­ted its PR approach towards fos­ter­ing a neg­lected com­munity. By doing so, the brand cre­ated unique and enga­ging con­tent that res­on­ated with its tar­get audi­ence, show­cas­ing the incred­ible skills, ded­ic­a­tion, and achieve­ments of action sports ath­letes. 3How Red Bull Creates Brand Buzz. (2012, December 21). Harvard Business Review. https://​hbr​.org/​2​0​1​2​/​1​2​/​h​o​w​-​r​e​d​-​b​u​l​l​-​c​r​e​a​t​e​s​-​b​r​a​n​d​-​b​uzz

This com­munity-cent­ric approach not only elev­ated the ath­letes but also served to human­ise and authen­tic­ate the Red Bull brand, demon­strat­ing its genu­ine com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing the action sports community.

The suc­cess of Red Bull’s PR strategy in tar­get­ing the stu­pid major­ity offers valu­able les­sons for busi­nesses in vari­ous indus­tries. By identi­fy­ing often mis­un­der­stood or under­es­tim­ated indi­vidu­als, brands can cre­ate mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with these out­sider com­munit­ies and lever­age their pas­sion for cre­at­ing enga­ging and authen­t­ic content. 

As more and more people become exposed to the world of action sports, the out­dated notion of these activ­it­ies as mere flashy hob­bies for adren­aline junkies and non-com­pet­it­ive indi­vidu­als is gradu­ally being replaced by a new­found appre­ci­ation for the genu­ine ath­let­ic tal­ent and determ­in­a­tion that under­pins these thrill­ing and visu­ally spec­tac­u­lar pursuits.

Literature List

Muniz, A. M., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand com­munity. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), 412 – 432.

Schau, H. J., Muñiz Jr, A. M., & Arnould, E. J. (2009). How brand com­munity prac­tices cre­ate value. Journal of Marketing, 73(5), 30 – 51.

Fournier, S., & Lee, L. (2009). Getting brand com­munit­ies right. Harvard Business Review, 87(4), 105 – 111.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

More PR Case Studies

PR Resource: The Stupid Majority

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

The Stupid Majority

From what con­ver­sion the­ory tells us, minor­it­ies tend to hold their opin­ions more firmly. This is reas­on­able since going against the major­ity comes at a high­er social cost. 4Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/

But some minor­it­ies have an addi­tion­al advantage:

Smart Minority = a minor­ity of today that will grow into a new major­ity of tomorrow.

In con­trast, some major­it­ies have an addi­tion­al disadvantage:

Stupid Majority = a major­ity of today that will stead­ily decline into a minor­ity of tomorrow.

Examples of Stupid Majorities

Stupid Majorities are to be found everywhere:

Riding a skate­board isn’t a real sport!”
(Stupid Majority vs Red Bull)

Computing is about bits and bytes, not design!”
(Stupid Majority vs Apple)

Websites and apps can­’t pro­duce movies and tele­vi­sion shows!”
(Stupid Majority vs Netflix)

Electric cars can­’t com­pete with gas cars!”
(Stupid Majority vs Tesla Motors)

Hotels must have hotel rooms!”
(Stupid Majority vs AirBnB)

Taxi com­pan­ies must have tax­is!”
(Stupid Majority vs Uber)

Media com­pan­ies must pro­duce media!”
(Stupid Majority vs Facebook)

Identifying a Stupid Majority (and sid­ing with a Smart Minority) will cla­ri­fy your core mes­sage and attract highly engaged minor­ity supporters.

Since time’s by your side (the Stupid Majority will be gone no mat­ter what), tar­get­ing a Stupid Majority might become your career­’s most influ­en­tial PR strategy.

Read also: The Stupid Majority PR Strategy: How Underdogs Dominate

Logo - Spin Academy - Online PR Courses
ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Red Bull. (2023, April 6). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​R​e​d​_​B​ull
2 Van den Steen, Eric, and Carin-Isabel Knoop. Red Bull (A). Harvard Business School Case 714 – 401, March 2014. (Revised March 2018.) http://​hbr​.org/​p​r​o​d​u​c​t​/​R​e​d​-​B​ull – A-/an/714401-PDF-ENG
3 How Red Bull Creates Brand Buzz. (2012, December 21). Harvard Business Review. https://​hbr​.org/​2​0​1​2​/​1​2​/​h​o​w​-​r​e​d​-​b​u​l​l​-​c​r​e​a​t​e​s​-​b​r​a​n​d​-​b​uzz
4 Silfwer, J. (2017, June 13). Conversion Theory — Disproportionate Minority Influence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​c​o​n​v​e​r​s​i​o​n​-​t​h​e​o​ry/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Advertisment

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

Advertisment

.

Subscribe to Spin Control—it’s 100% free!

Join 2,550+ fellow PR lovers and subscribe to Jerry’s free newsletter on communication and psychology.
What will you get?

> PR commentary on current events.
> Subscriber-only VIP content.
> My personal PR slides for .key and .ppt.
> Discounts on upcoming PR courses.
> Ebook on getting better PR ideas.
Subscribe to Spin Control today by clicking SUBMIT and get your first send-out instantly.


Latest Posts
Similar Posts
Most Popular
Advertisment