How Red Bull’s sponsorship of a professional football team resonates with their brand strategy.
In 2009 a football club by the name of Rasenballsport Leipzig was founded in the German city of Leipzig. The name has the ridiculous meaning of “Grasballsports Leipzig”. In short though, it makes RB Leipzig, a clear indication to the sponsor and investor of the club: Red Bull. Fast forward to 2017, the club is playing his first year in the German top flight the Bundesliga, is aiming for the Champions League next season and is causing a lot of controversy among fans, as they are not seen as one of the old traditional clubs in the Bundesliga.
Red Bull has a long history of sponsoring high-risk and high-speed sport events like Formula 1, aircraft racing, motorcycle stunts and football. The Austrian energy drink company wants to link itself to these kinds of events to present the image that their drink is enabling you to do highspeed sports and that it “gives you wings”. In the following I am going to examine through Keller’s Brand Equity Model, how the sponsorship of a football club helps Red Bull in their brand creation.
Brand Salience or so called Awareness was immediately created after the foundation of the club. The product itself, the energy drink, was very well known at the time already, but Red Bull wanted more awareness to its brand. Freely adapted from the old saying “There is no such thing as bad publicity”, Red Bull tried to find loopholes in the regulations to become the sole owner of a 5th division club and rebranded it according to its wishes. The Fans in the very tradition-based German football were furious but the project got a lot of attention, when RB stated that they want to play in the Bundesliga in the next 10 years. Just what Red Bull wanted – Awareness. They also choose a very clever spot for their club, as Leipzig is a growing metropolis in the part of the former DDR in Germany, which always has been lacking a successful football team since the German unification.
To fit into the brand of Red Bull the team had to be created accordingly, this can be linked to the second stage of the Brand Equity Model – Performance and Imagery. Red Bull wants to appeal as fast, risky, and highly energetic. This was applied to the obvious stages of the club, like the jerseys, which are in the company colors red and white. The logo is a red bull as well as the mascot. But also on the pitch the team must perform according to the image. RB is only signing young promising talents, which all have 2 abilities in common – speed and the willingness to take risks. The application of the brand image got even that far into the athletic performance that the formations on the field looked like the horns of a Bull.
Through the Imagery and Performance Red Bull was aiming for Feelings and Judgements in the public towards their football team and ultimately towards their product – the energy drink. It has to be said that a large majority of football fans in Germany despises the newcomer RB Leipzig because of its seemingly infinite resources through their sponsor. But as I already said, Red Bull does not care about bad publicity as long as their brand is presented in the way they want it to be. In this case through fast and risky football. There is another side to it as well: In the region of Leipzig which was desperate for a Bundesliga team in the past 25 years, the club is very welcome. The stadium is sold out regularly, Social Media numbers increase by the day and the city of Leipzig already is in negotiations to rebuilt the stadium.
On the final level of the Brand model it is all about the relationship of the brand with their customers – Resonance. This also can be seen as a conclusion and assessment of the marketing vehicle “professional football club” in Red Bull Brand creation.
It is striking how Red Bull, despite the general criticism of their involvement in German football, were able to increase sales in Germany, yet alone in 2015 by 16%. Red Bull has created probably its own biggest promotion tool and a constant platform to connect their product with their image for their customers. The increased sales in the area, the high spectator rates and social media numbers are proof to the high resonance of the people in Germany towards the football club and ultimately the brand of the Red Bull energy drink.