Red Bull charged up

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Anheuser-busch may try to emulate the success of Austria's Red Bull energy drink (AA, Aug. 14), but Red Bull plans to stay several extreme steps ahead with its event-driven marketing strategy.

Red Bull North America's unusual approach to marketing relies on a network of its own extreme sports events to promote the brand, which arrived in the U.S. in 1997.

Unlike most marketers that slap a sponsorship on an existing event, Red Bull goes out of its way to create its own, and that gives it a great deal more control in managing the events and influencing the athletes who participate, said Corporate Communications Manager Emmy Cortes.

"Red Bull is willing to invest a lot in making sure people become believers in Red Bull through hands-on experiences, and insists on running its own events," said Adam Comey, president of Mountain Sports International, Crested Butte, Colo., which has helped produce several Red Bull events.

`INDELIBLE AWARENESS'

Ms. Cortes explained: "People who attend one of our events have the indelible awareness that it was sponsored by Red Bull because of the unusual amount of control we can exert over our own events."

The caffeine-laced, non-alcoholic energy drink is available in only 25 states, and though the privately held company won't release its revenue, Red Bull's growth in new markets has been "incredible," Ms. Cortes said, especially as an elixir among active young men who mix it with vodka in bars.

On the event schedule, coming this week in Hawaii is the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Tour Finals. Next week brings Red Bull Wings Over Aspen, a hang-gliding event where competitors will zoom through the gates of a downhill slalom ski course in Colorado at 70 mph, staying under a 20-foot barrier. Other annual events include death-defying street luge competitions in San Francisco and the Snowthrill of Alaska winter sports event.

The first-ever Red Bull Rock 'n' Air event is set for Sept. 30 in Denver. Red Bull hopes to draw crowds for demonstrations of a variety of extreme sports plus live music.

In addition to its events, Red Bull sponsors top athletes in a variety of extreme sports including BASE (bungee) jumping, mountain biking and motocross.

Red Bull backs its event marketing efforts with animated commercials airing on spot and cable TV via German agency Kastner & Partners, Frankfurt, but it uses no print or Internet advertising.

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