How Social Was The Red Bull Stratos #LiveJump Publicity Stunt?

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve already heard about Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting jump from the edge of space, a publicity stunt sponsored by energy drink Red Bull.  Millions viewed the event live on YouTube, and thousands more commented on various forms of social media during and after the jump, creating a huge amount of buzz for Red Bull.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Nearly 7.3 million viewers watched Baumgartner live, moments before jumping
  • an estimated 8 million watched him make the jump on Sunday morning
  • Half the worldwide trending topics on Twitter had something to do with the jump

Red Bull Sponsored Jump Gets Big Social Buzz After a successful landing, Red Bull posted this picture of Baumgartner on Facebook, which totaled nearly 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments and more than 29,000 shares in less than 40 minutes (CBS News).  Just two days later, the same post has over 522,000 likes and over 15,000 comments.

Red Bull posted twice more about the jump since Sunday – to over 32.5 million fans on the brand’s Facebook page –  with impressive levels of engagement.

How was Red Bull prepared to promote the event beyond the brand’s existing social media presence?  In addition to the live video on YouTube, the brand established dedicated Twitter (over 250,000 followers) and Facebook (over 715,000 likes) accounts for the Red Bull Stratos project, and an Instagram feed.

Here’s a look at the various hashtags associated with the event – with a strong presence for Red Bull’s brand name (SalesForce blog):

Red Bull Stunt Inspires Twitter hashtags
According to Forbes, this type of publicity stunt is “true spectacle in its purest form, beautiful in its ridiculousness.” More importantly for marketers, it “feels incongruous in a world of banner ads and mailing lists.” Which, Forbes claims, is exactly why it worked so well.

“Baumgartner’s jump was that perfect social media campaign because it didn’t go through the networks themselves, but through the people on the networks.” While “Red Bull could easily have spent that same money buying ads on the biggest social networks” instead the brand found something exciting enough that “people spread the message for them.”

Even NASA tweeted about the event: “Congratulations to Felix Baumgartner and RedBull Stratos on record-breaking leap from the edge of space!”  Baumgartner – a record-setting high-altitude jumper – promised this would be his final jump, reported CBS News.

What do you think – are big, daring publicity stunts even more effective in the world of social and realtime communication?  Are they really the “perfect” way (if your brand has the resources) to break through the bombardment of advertising and messaging that we see on an everyday basis?

  • Steven van de Ferris

    It is so easy to be cynical of the underlying corporate interests of sponsors. This record breaking endeavour was a human achievement the likes of which has not been seen since the 1960s. The only difference – in the 21st century governments cannot afford to spend the amount of money it costs to conduct this type of experiment without suffering the scrutiny of the tax paying public and the media. Hats off to Red Bull for supporting Felix Baumgartner in his mission; a serious risk (both physical and financial) with significant pay off for all involved. As T.S. Eliot once put it: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

    • Christopher Carson

      I agree that Red Bull should be congratulated (along with Mr. Baumgartner.) I don’t think that @MarissaMcN was being particularly “cynical” about the corporate interest of sponsors.

      It’s not like Red Bull did this — primarily — in interests of science or mankind. They did it to get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Which they did. As you point out, risk has it’s rewards, and big risk has big rewards.

      I’m wondering about the downside risk. What was Red Bull’s plan, had Mr. Baumgartner’s parachute not opened?

      • I would LOVE to have an answer to @chriscarson:disqus’s question.

    • Marissa McNaughton

      The post wasn’t intended to be cynical of Red Bull’s interests as a sponsor, nor to approve or disapprove the brand’s choice in generating publicity through a live stunt. My aim was mainly to document how effectively this event garnered interest on social media. Personally, I really enjoyed writing about Baumgartner’s jump and am happy to see a brand backing this type of adventure – and pushing the boundaries of what humans (and technology) can do!

  • derek moran

    publicity stunt? Only a marketing mentally would hide behind such a phrase…

  • This is a useful and informative article. As for the commodification of damnfool risk taking — that is what mythology is all about. And why mythology is the oldest social medium.

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