Infiniti's New Marketing Partner: Red Bull

Luxury Car Brand Links With Brand's Formula One Race Team in Order to Expand Global Footprint

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A luxury brand car and Red Bull? It doesn't seem like a tasty brand cocktail, but the Japanese luxury brand says it is looking to the world's biggest energy drink brand to turbo-charge its awareness with the right set of buyers.

Infiniti, the luxury unit of Nissan Motor, said today it is becoming a sponsor of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, which won the racing series' championship title in 2010. It is the first time Infiniti is grabbing a global sponsorship of any kind and the first time the Red Bull team has attracted an auto brand sponsor.

Nissan's research shows that Red Bull is a good branding partner for a luxury brand trying to gain recognition.
Nissan's research shows that Red Bull is a good branding partner for a luxury brand trying to gain recognition. Credit: AP

The deal represents a "stepping out" for Infiniti," said Nissan VP-global communications Simon Sproule. "In past, Infiniti stuck to regional marketing activities involving activities like tennis, but as we expand the brand globally we need global platforms."

More than that, Mr. Sproule says, it is an attempt to "put some new energy" behind the Infiniti brand. Red Bull is not only the biggest energy drink brand in the world, previously spurning offers from both Coca-Cole and PepsiCo, but it has become a marketing juggernaut.

Besides the F1 team, Red Bull sponsors teams in mountain biking, BMX, motocross, wind-surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, rally, surfing, cliff diving, as well as break dancing and video games. It also owns the The New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer team. "It is a social-media content machine," said Nissan's Mr. Sproule in explaining his interest in latching onto Red Bull as a partner.

Red Bull may not sound like a logical association for a car brand, luxury or otherwise. But Nissan's research shows that the appeal of Red Bull is unusually good branding partner for a luxury brand trying to gain recognition. "It has been one of the most dynamic brands in the world globally, and is practically income agnostic," said Mr. Sproule. In other words, it's a brand that attracts luxury car buyers of today, such as the Wall Street and Silicon Valley crowds, as well as those aspiring to afford Infiniti sticker prices one day, such as students and young professionals. Indeed, Red Bull seems to have taken on a brand cachet with people who are driven in both their work and play.

Infiniti has had a somewhat glacial and uneven growth path since it was introduced in the U.S. in 1989, and the company is trying to remedy that. It's only been in the last few years that Infiniti has been expanded to Western Europe, the Middle East, India, Russia and China. Those are markets where Formula One racing has also expanded, making it a good fit for Infiniti, said Mr. Sproule. Renault, Nissan's global alliance partner, sponsors an F1 team, as does Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. Ford, Honda, Toyota and BMW are among the companies that have pulled out of F1 racing in recent years, citing the high costs of maintaining a competitive team.

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