Lindy Taverner

Battle of the energy brands

2011-09-27 09:50
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

It’s a no-brainer as to who’s ahead of the game in the energy drink brand battle. Red Bull dominates the vast assortment, with Rockstar and Monster being the closest competition.

They are all worldwide brands, have a sexy, edgy image and focus on action sports. The industry is big enough for all of them, but it all started with Red Bull.

If you were to look for a case study as to how to create and market a brand successfully, you would have to go far to beat Red Bull.

Created by one man on a revenue share, based on a drink he experienced in Asia and transformed into a Western version, now selling over three billion cans worldwide per annum. Much of this success is down to various clever marketing partnerships.

Extreme sports are really where they have been the canniest. They dominate this space by gaining brand endorsement from the leading extreme sports celebrities and sportspeople and the amazing fact is that they rarely pay anyone for this. People do it because they want to be part of Red Bull and want that positive association. It might also have something to do with the billionaire owner’s charm and charisma and the extravagant parties they throw too...

The product is also aggressively marketed through hosting extreme, alternative events and tournament sponsorship such as their The Red Bull Air Race,  Crashed Ice, Cliff Diving And Xfighter Jams.

Currently F1 World Champions, the positive association with one of the fastest and most glamourised sport on earth reflects amazingly well on the brand and taps into the aspirational lifestyle and sporting prowess that the brand communicates in its overall marketing. It gives you wings and it makes you fly, here’s the proof...

In the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup season, 25 of the world's best teenage racers representing 14 nations from across the world face off. The Cup machinery is the KTM RC125, another smart partnership, propelling the teenagers at Grand Prix speeds. Errors are serious but with top equipment and support the teenagers could not have a better springboard to a GP career. Get them young, as they say, and the onlooking teenagers admire the fame, beautiful girls and awesome bikes... all basking in the Red Bull halo.

Action or Adrenaline sport isn’t just sport anymore. Cross referenced with fashion, art and music, the culture of these sports spreads through various demographics.

All brand partnerships communicate the values of Red Bull very cleverly, from video games to breakdancing competitions and from mobiles to hummers. How do other brands get in edgeways?

Red Bull is synonymous with big wave surfing, even though they withdrew from event sponsorship of Big Wave Africa a few years ago. I’ve heard that the athletes sponsored by Red Bull would have a hard time competing in a big wave event sponsored by another energy drink. Sounds like bullying to me?

Monopoly is never a good thing, and the competition is fierce. Monster is moving in on motocross and surfing territory in South Africa.  The Monster claws logo is becoming a familiar sight.

The Rockstar energy drink that is huge in the States, is edging in aggressively on extreme sport territory in the rest of the world. In addition they also support alternative sports like bull riding, martial arts and wrestling, marketing themselves as a ‘tougher’ brand. The bands they support are along the heavy metal edge and their models are much raunchier than those of other brands, but as they say, ‘sex sells’. Their clothing line has been a huge hit; who doesn’t want to be a Rockstar?

I can’t help but wonder who actually buys these drinks when they aren’t for free at events? The Vodka Red bull partnership is a successful combination that keeps their nocturnal sales up. It’s quite a feat that they’ve managed to market a ‘sporty’ energy drink as a ‘party’ drink.

It remains to be seen if the industry can continue to sustain all these brands. Perceptions have changed regarding their “health” properties, but with all the other problems in the world, do we really care?

Extreme sports are about the right here and the right now, no consequences, and that’s exactly what the energy drink is all about.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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