Updated: Sep 12, 2019
The Austrian energy drink that purportedly "gives you wings" had close ties to air sports ever since it entered the market more than 30 years ago. In fact, it didn't enter an existing market, it created a new one, in a new product category. Air sports were among the first the brand used as per its very particular sponsorship strategy to get the message across.
An Austrian Para Ski Team at the FAI World Championship in Snowbird, USA, back in 1995 comes to mind: more than a dozen brand new canopies with the two charging red bulls emblazoned on it ... As well as on the harness and container systems and every piece of casual wear worn by the members for different occasions during a Para Ski competition: ski, après-ski and jumping! Altogether a site that had the participants on other teams dribble with envy - until they were given one of the RB baseball caps that the Austrians had brought along by the hundreds.
Just a few months ago, indoor skydiver Kyra Poh, SIN, was made the air sport discipline's second RB Athlete after Maja Kuczyńska, POL. That is the uplifting story.
The downer: this past weekend the final curtain came down on the RB Air Race World Championship after close to 100 events and more than ten complete seasons. The spectacular racing in a format which was developed by RB came to an end in Chiba, JPN. In an official statement released at the end of May 2019, RB pointed to the main reason for it to discontinue the RB Air Race. "It did not attract the level of outside interest as many other Red Bull events across the world."
"The FAI has been honored to be a partner of the Red Bull Air Race since 2005, and is sorry to see this fabulous air sports event being discontinued," says FAI President Robert Henderson upon completion of the final leg in Japan.
"The series has consistently provided sports entertainment of the highest quality, demonstrating incredible flying skills that have been enjoyed by millions of fans all over the world."
Most likely upstaged only by Red Bull's involvement in Formula One and football, and in Felix Baumgartner's skydive from the edge of space, air racing was a prominent but costly platform for the brand to generate awareness. Much like the Austrian company had invented a new category for its product, it had defined an entirely new strategy for most of its sports sponsorships as well. But the number of eyeballs still seems to count!
Let's hope that the RB involvement in indoor skydiving will endure.