How Red Bull Quietly Changed its Video Marketing Strategy
In my previous article, I stated that having an accurate forecast of where the digital video marketing business is headed in 2020 would help you create a successful video marketing strategy, among other things. I probably should have said “could” or “should” instead of “would,” because brands that already have a successful video marketing strategy are generally tempted to stick with what’s working. You know what they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But, one brand has dramatically changed its video marketing strategy despite the fact that the rest of the industry generally considers it to have been wildly successful over the past eight years. Now, that’s doubly surprising. First of all because, who stops doing what everyone else says is the right thing to do? And secondly, why has it taken so long for most video marketers to realize that this brand isn’t doing what it was once famous for doing anymore? That brand is Red Bull.
Red Bull: Hero Video Marketers
In the old days, Red Bull was known for its monster hits, like “Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k” The Red Bull Stratos space diving project, which took place on Oct. 14, 2012, was viewed live by over 9.5 million users, setting a record for the live stream with the most concurrent views ever on YouTube.
At time of writing, the YouTube video has 41.2 million views, and 240,000 engagements, according to Tubular Labs. So, one might mistakenly think that Red Bull’s current video marketing strategy is built around creating similar hero content or tent-pole events on YouTube. But, if you take a close look at the Tubular’s monthly rankings of the most watched brands across platforms, then you’ll see that Red Bull has ranked #1 in nine of the past 12 months. And in the other three months, February, March, and April 2016, when LEGO ranked #1, Red Bull ranked #2.
In other words, Red Bull’s successful video marketing strategy appears to be built on creating hub content month in and month out that gets a ton of views. Yes, some months dip to as few as 131 million views and other months jump to as much as 310 million views. But, Red Bull has generated more than 2.5 billion (with a “b”) views – and 50.2 million engagements – in the last 365 days. That’s the equivalent of making more than 60 space jumps a year – without a parachute!
That’s what I mean about dramatically changing what everyone thought a successful video marketing strategy looked like. Red Bull has moved from making occasional “hits” to producing an ongoing stream of videos that get lots of views – and engagements – day in and day out.
According to Tubular Labs, Red Bull has uploaded 4,331 videos to 23 accounts in the last 365 days. On average, these videos get 524,000 views in their first 30 days. And their overall engagement rate is 2.0%, which is 1.3 times above average for other video content that Tubular Video Ratings has benchmarked. Now, there are still occasional hits, like “Red Bull Creepers,” which features two climbers racing to the top of a bridge. Uploaded on July 16, 2016, this Facebook video currently has 73.0 million views and 1.3 million engagements.
If you don’t recall reading any breaking news stories about this particular video, then it’s worth pointing out that when the climbers fall, there’s water in the river below to catch them. And it should also be noted that “Red Bull Creepers” is part an ongoing deep-water soloing (otherwise known as psicobloc) competition that started back in July 2014. So, it’s not really news anymore.
The Move into Hub Content
A second example of an extraordinary Red Bull video that flew below the radar is “Rampage Winning Run: Brandon Semenuk’s Flawless Big Mountain Line.” Uploaded on Oct. 15, 2016, this Facebook video now has 31.5 million views and 778,000 engagements.
So, why did most video marketers miss the run that won it all? Well, this was Semenuk’s second Red Bull Rampage title. (He also won in 2008.) Plus, the Red Bull Rampage invitation-only freeride mountain bike competition has been held annually near Zion National Park since 2001 (except for a three year hiatus from 2005-2007). Now, the prize money for the event has grown over the past 11 competitions from $8,000 in 2001 to $200,000 in 2016. But, maybe the biggest mountain biking events of the year still isn’t big enough to catch everyone’s attention.
A third example of an astonishing Red Bull video that remained in stealth mode is “Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out.” Uploaded Nov. 2, 2016, this Facebook video now has 28.8 million views and 794,000 engagements. Okay, I first heard about MacAskill, a Scottish trials cyclist, eight years ago. His video, “Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill April 2009,” now has 37.8 million views. His Red Bull video, “Way Back Home,’” which was uploaded in November 2010, now has 38.7 million views. His Red Bull video, “Danny MacAskill’s Imaginate,” which was uploaded in June 2013, now has 61.7 million views. So, maybe “Wee Day Out” didn’t seem to be quite as newsworthy as some of his earlier videos.
I realize that I may be biased because I attended the University of Edinburgh and just love watching MacAskill explore the rural landscape around Scotland’s compact, hilly capital in a video that captures the simple fun of a ride in the country with moments of incredible riding and a touch of humor. Nevertheless, even if “Wee Day Out” currently has fewer views than some of his earlier videos, MacAskill pulls off never-seen-before tricks, most of which would normally be assumed impossible on a mountain bike, like leaping onto a single train track, turning a hay bale into a giant unicycle, riding over a cottage, and disappearing into a 6-foot puddle.
But, video marketers should step back and examine Red Bull’s dramatically different, but even more successful video marketing strategy. In the last 365 days, the energy drink brand has created a total of 639 videos that each has more than 1 million views. Together, they have a combined 1.7 billion (with a “b”) total views and 32.9 million total engagements.
How did Red Bull put this wildly successful video marketing strategy together? The energy drink brand started uploading videos to Facebook in November 2007, YouTube in April 2008, and Instagram in September 2014. Initially targeted at young men 18-24 years old who were looking for videos with a “stoke factor” set at an all-time high, Red Bull’s content featured some of the best action sports clips and original series on the web.
For example, Red Bull’s content includes highlights from one-of-a-kind competitions like Rampage, Crashed Ice, Frozen Rush, Straight Rhythm, Soap Box Race, Flugtag, Hart Lines, Volcom Pipe Pro, Joyride, X-Fighters, Hare Scramble, UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, and Cape Fear. The energy drink brand also lets viewers get their binge on with such original series as Who is J.O.B., Shecker Sessions, Keep Your Tips Up, MX Nation, Raditudes, 4 Below Zero, On Track with Curtis Keene, Down Days, Pat Moore’s Blueprint, and Miles Above.
Today, Red Bull can be considered a media company as well as an energy drink brand. That’s why it is currently uploading 174 videos a month, which are generating 183 million monthly views. And, oh, by the way, Red Bull sold almost 6 billion cans of the energy drink for $6.6 billion in 2015, the most recent year available. Now, that’s not just a successful video marketing strategy. It’s also a dramatically different way to monetize you videos than selling advertising. Hey, maybe other media companies should consider selling beverages, too.