How astute marketing propelled the Red Bull fortune

Red Bull cliff diving event in Italy. Photo / Getty
Red Bull cliff diving event in Italy. Photo / Getty

The brand accounts for 87 per cent of the world's energy-drink billions but the Red Bull fortune is a rags to riches story.

Although the global giant came from humble beginnings, its Thai entrepreneur founder and sometime duck farmer Chaleo Yoovidhya amassed roughly $22b with a unique and astute marketing technique based on extreme stunts.

He first established a relationship to a pharmaceutical company in 1956 before pivoting to energy tonics in the 1970s. In 1975 he invented a drink made with caffeine, sugar, and the amino acid, taurine, that he called Krating Daeng, or "red bull" in Thai.

The inexpensive drink was sold locally in Asia until 1987 when Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian advertising man, tried the drink while trying to counteract jet-leg, Bloomberg reports.

Chaleo Yoovidhya (left) and Founder and Chairman of Geox Mario Moretti Polegato. Photo / Getty
Chaleo Yoovidhya (left) and Founder and Chairman of Geox Mario Moretti Polegato. Photo / Getty

Mateschitz and Yoovidhya teamed up to develop and market the drink around the concepts of hard study, hard work, and adrenaline seeking.

In 2012, the year Yoovidhya died, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier on his 39 kilometre jump from the edge of space to earth, all the while emblazoned with Red Bull logos in what was called the Red Bull Stratos Project.

At the time, no one knew what would happen to Baumgartner when he jumped - the effects of breaking the sound barrier on the body were unknown. The ambitious and dangerous event was patently Red Bull, and sponsorship of events like these has give the company the market edge in energy drinks.

The Red Bull Stratos jump in 2012. Photo / Red Bull
The Red Bull Stratos jump in 2012. Photo / Red Bull

Along with the rights to distribute a carbonated version of Yoovidhya's original recipe, the Austrian based Red Bull also owns an airborne stunt team, "The Flying Bulls," four professional football teams, two Formula One Race teams and teams to organise and promote stunts and events, Bloomberg reports.

"It's a brand built of events," Rohit Deshpande, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School told Bloomberg.

"Yoovidhya is seen as the person who came up with the idea for the product, what goes inside the can. And the Austrian is seen as the guy who promotes it."

The decision to use spectacles as marketing is what has left Yoovidhya's 11 surviving children as billionaires.

While the family's fortune is ensconced, Red Bull's future is less certain. The China Daily reported in January that the family is seeking to renegotiate the terms of partnership with TC Pharmaceutical.

Succession is also a concern for a company - with Mateschitz, age 72, still leading the marketing effort.

National University of Singapore's Yupana Wiwattanakantang told Bloomberg the Yoovidhya heirs haven't shown a similar aptitude to Mateschitz so far.

- NZ Herald

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