It’s the big one. The bout to beat them all: ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’. ‘The Thrilla in Manila’. ‘The Brawl for it All’… These will all seem like mere ‘Fisticuffs in Magaluf’ when this contest is over.
In the red corner, unsurprisingly… Red Bull, with its commitment to broadcasting the most extreme of escapades to a worldwide audience, including a whopping 3.7m YouTube subscribers and a high concept strategy of putting thrills and spills before energy drink sales.
In the blue corner, strapped head-to-toe in tiny cameras so viewers can witness every single punch in glorious high definition clarity… GoPro, with its intimidating dominance of social video, constant gracing of the top ten biggest brands on YouTube and an effortless ability to marry its products perfectly with its content.
Two giant brands. One arena that can barely contain them both and one glorious winner, turkey-trotting over the shattered bones of its crushed opponent.
I am but the lowly referee, cowering to avoid the blows, but too fascinated to look away. So let’s take a glance at these titans in the content marketing and social worlds and see which will be crowned the ultimate champion.
Round one: events
Welcome to Red Bull’s Stratos Jump, in which the fearless daredevil Felix Baumgartner passed the speed of sound and broke a 52-year-old record for the highest recorded parachute jump.
It’s incredible for many reasons, let alone the actual feat itself and it definitely set the bar stratospherically high for every other brand’s content marketing strategy.
8m people watched the event and it hit every mainstream news outlet. It was impossible not to feel in some way a part of it.
The genius behind the event was how Red Bull developed a story around it, using multiple hooks. The jump itself was described as “death defying” for the thrill junkies inside of us, but its importance to science was also highlighted, speculating on the effects of breaking the sound barrier on Baumgartner’s body.
The huge amount of footage captured by nine HD cameras, three digital cinematography cameras and a further three digital still cameras meant that Red Bull could spin out the maximum amount of content possible. There are multiple videos of the event on Red Bull’s YouTube page, from full length POV videos to mini-documentaries uncovering the various scientific findings.
The Stratos jump also has it’s own website, absolutely teeming with content.
Then there’s the wealth of images, clips and trailers available to Red Bull’s various social networks.
— Red Bull Stratos (@RedBullStratos) March 17, 2014
Let’s take a look at the ROI of the jump…
As well as the impressive 8m people all concurrently watching the livestream, according to Social Bakers the number of subscribers to Red Bull’s YouTube channel grew from an average 2,142 average per day to 87,801 on the day of the jump.
On its Facebook wall, posts published on jump day received more than 900,000 interactions, including 83,000 shares.
In the six months immediately following the jump, sales of Red Bull rose 7% to $1.6bn in the US, and newer target markets were acquired in Brazil, Japan, India and South Korea.
Of course this isn’t the only example of Red Bull using a huge event to provide itself with hours of footage for long-running content campaigns. You’ll probably already be well aware of the Red Bull Air Race, the Red Bull Flugtag, its sponsored stages at major music festivals…
In fact if you look at the Red Bull homepage, it’s an endless array of forthcoming events or news about recent ones.
In fact the full selection of its endeavours is really quite awe-inspiring and would take hours to consume everything. Red Bull wants to become bigger than a brand, it wants to become a lifestyle.
GoPro doesn’t have anything quite like Red Bull’s Stratos jump under its seat-belt. In fact Red Bull itself hasn’t even tried to match or top that stunt’s excesses in the following years.
Content-wise, GoPro and Red Bull share huge similarities, each has a commitment to capturing extreme sports and other incredible feats in innovative ways that puts the audience directly in the cockpit or crash helmet. Both brands have also integrated perfectly into one another’s worlds.
A lot of the footage captured during Red Bull’s hair-raising events wouldn’t look quite so awesome (or churn so many stomachs) if it wasn’t for GoPro’s range of cameras, and there wouldn’t be any footage to capture in the first place if it wasn’t for Red Bull’s sponsorship.
In fact, if you visit GoPro’s website, you’re immediately greeted with Red Bull’s livery.
The video above is a glorious, over-large, full screen flight across the Alps. Here the website itself becomes the content.
Elsewhere on the site you can find information on its full range of cameras, as well as the ability to buy them via its own ecommerce store, as well as customer support and links to instruction manuals.
There’s also a page for all of GoPro’s videos, arranged by subject and with the ability for users to submit their own efforts.
However, unless you’re shopping for a GoPro camera, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t repeatedly come back to this site. Therefore GoPro’s main priority, and the place where most of its fans will check out the latest videos is its YouTube page.
As I previously discussed in GoPro’s dazzling YouTube strategy this is where GoPro produces content that its followers love to watch.
From the short little bursts of exhilaration.
To the longer narrative based adventures.
Keeping the brand message in the background, GoPro creates content that’s entertaining, unique and quite honestly containing some of the most exciting (or terrifying) footage I’ve ever seen in an online video.
GoPro’s audience primarily consists of photography fans (both hobbyist and expert), sports fans (both extreme and armchair) and any followers of innovative online video in general.
Videos like the one above, and this one involving a nerve-shredding flight through Heaven’s Gate in Tianmen Mountain…
… show how perfectly GoPro is making content to appeal to all of those specialist demographics. Of course I’m going to subscribe to this channel, I wouldn’t want to miss a thing.
The major success in GoPro’s content marketing strategy is the way it so naturally and effortlessly marries its content to its product. It’s an obvious fit. The rigorous testing of GoPro’s technology through the most breath-taking displays of human bravery, captured by the very camera that’s being marketed.
Users who respond to a brand’s content will naturally gravitate to that brand in other channels and areas of commerce. I for one will definitely purchase a GoPro camera to film my next flaming motorcycle bus-jump.
GoPro has been rewarded with more than 2m subscribers for its efforts, although this is nearly half as many as Red Bull’s channel. However, just looking through each brand’s most popular videos, GoPro’s videos achieve just as many views as Red Bull’s, which perhaps proves that GoPro has the upper-hand in terms of quality and shareability.
Round two: extra-curricular interests
Red Bull Music Academy is a website dedicated to music features and interviews.
At the moment there’a fantastic series called Diggin’ in the Carts, which charts the history of Japanese Video Game Music.
On the above page you can watch the first episode and also interact with composer biographies and listen to exclusive playlists.
I also like how the dates for subsequent episodes are clearly indicated.
A routine schedule for uploading videos is a must for any series. Consistency develops loyalty, higher expectation and hooks an audience in for the long-haul.
Elsewhere there are articles on this year’s Notting Hill carnival, a feature on John Coltrane and an interview with reformed shoegaze band Slowdive.
As someone who spends a lot of time reading and writing for music websites, I’m impressed at the wide-ranging features that aren’t all focused on the latest ‘buzz’ bands. There’s a definite strategic approach to creating ‘evergreen’ content here, rather than news based filler that disappears from search engine results pages after a week or two.
The articles are also very well written and researched, clearly by experienced music journalists, helping to boost the reputation of the content even further.
GoPro doesn’t have quite the commitment to extra curricular activities as Red Bull does. In fact you may expect GoPro to be rather constrained by the content its users can create. Luckily you can strap a GoPro camera to almost anything and therefore the variation in content is always surprising and eye-opening. It’s not all extreme sports and daredevil stunts.
GoPro may not sponsor music festivals, but when have you ever seen a stage-dive from this angle before?
Some of GoPro’s biggest break-out hits have managed to cross-over into the non-sporting world, something that Red Bull’s content has failed to do. The strength of the product is that it can be used anywhere at any time. Here’s GoPro’s viral sensation that spread its brand awareness and increased brand perception across all demographics to the tune of nearly 24m views.
This video of a camera falling from a plane, landing in a farm and eventually being eaten by a pig was covered by multiple news outlets, amassing 11.2m views in just 10 days.
The genius of GoPro was taking this obvious accident and realising that there was a very marketable piece of footage here; combining dazzling visuals with cutesy humour whilst also showing off the indestructibility of its product.
Round three: social
Facebook isn’t all about the amount of fans a page has, but still… Red Bull’s 44m likes is pretty spectacular.
Red Bull also has a number of dedicated Facebook pages for its other initiatives including the Stratos balloon jump (933,265 fans), X-Fighters (2.2m) and its Music Academy (222,000).
The main account posts two or three times a day. I’ve just spent a long while backtracking through its many posts and I have yet to spot a single can of Red Bull, or obvious advert for it.
Just footage of racing cars, extreme sports and music festivals. All of which Red Bull is either a sponsor or in some other way associated.
The other thing you’ll notice is the huge amount of likes and shares each post amasses. There are posts from last month with up to 5,000 likes and 1,000 shares.
This one’s from three months ago…
You’ll notice that Red Bull never comments or replies to its followers on Facebook, which is massive shame as this would easily drive loyalty even further and really set itself apart from other major brands on Facebook.
Then again, with this much sharing and liking you can understand why Red Bull doesn’t feel the need to devote time and energy to responding.
The same goes for Red Bull’s Twitter feed. There’s just tweet after tweet of full-throttle, awe-inspiring images from every one of its many sponsored events.
— Red Bull (@redbull) September 7, 2014
Images like the one above speak for itself, and you’re generally only going to get comments such as “woah, that’s amazing!” underneath (or weird pointless spam), so again Red Bull doesn’t feel the need to engage particularly.
Red Bull also doesn’t operate any retail or ecommerce stores, so there’s very little chance that it would need to think about customer care or provide a customer service team on social. Then again, if Coca-Cola or its nearest equivalent Monster Energy can find the time to engage with its followers, so can Red Bull.
GoPro isn’t much better at engagement on Facebook either, it also has a fraction of the likes on its page (7.7m).
However it too manages to achieve a huge amount of likes and shares despite this, again down to the strength of its images alone.
Another nice feature of the Facebook page is the desire for fans to upload and share their own GoPro captured images in the comments, which brings a community feel to the page despite the lack of interaction.
The same goes for its Twitter page, which just recycles the same content that can be found on its other social channels and doesn’t seem to reply to direct mentions, unless its a specifically organised live chat.
Luckily GoPro is much better at follower interaction on YouTube. Here’s GoPro’s most popular video, with almost 34m views…
There are 28,210 comments underneath it, but it’s not difficult to find examples of GoPro wading into the conversation.
Much like GoPro, Red Bull’s social strategy isn’t about brazen, naked selling either. It’s about brand perception, awareness and offering up exactly the kind of entertainment it knows its consumers and followers love.
Red Bull realised that tapping into the extreme sports demographic would be a key way to solidify its brand as a drink for those living every day at the fullest, and for some strapping jet-packs to their backs and jumping off a cliff, as if every day could be their last.
Tapping into alternative music and other niche cultures, without seeming arch or cynical about them, means that Red Bull can absorb some of that counter-culture cache and position itself as a cooler, edgier brand then its competitors.
Again, with very few cans of Red Bull in sight.
Both Red Bull and GoPro understand the burgeoning power of social video, and that mobile first video channels are the future of social.
Red Bull’s Vines are mini masterclasses in lo-fi innovation. There’s nothing showy here, which befits the platform, just incredible stunts, brilliantly captured.
Here’s the closest thing possible to BMX infinite loop.
and there are the helmet-cam stunts you’ve come to expect.
Also Red Bull finds the time to create some great little ads for its product which are as charming as they creative.
Unfortunately GoPro’s Vine channel is somewhat of a missed opportunity. Most of its content is revined work from Red Bull, somewhat ironically in this context, and it hasn’t uploaded anything for more than nine months.
Red Bull posts images on Instagram daily, if not twice or thrice daily, and regularly uses Instagram video for 15 second long adventures.
Subtle brand positioning mixed with breath-taking visuals offering something you’ve possibly never seen (or been filmed this way) before.
Excellent footage, I think you’ll agree. Like me however, you might be wondering how on Earth that intimate footage was captured so well in such clarity? Would it be churlish of me to suspect the lens of a GoPro?
GoPro is thankfully just as committed to Instagram as Red Bull, and this really is a fantastic channel to follow. There are some of my favourite ever Instagrams here…
However there is a lack of video content here on Instagram, which is very surprising. In the last couple of months there has just been this effort, which is merely a tease for a piece of longer form content elsewhere.
GoPro and Red Bull of course offer completely different products, however each one creates content that appeals to a very similar demographic which is why I’ve pit them against each other here. They’re not really rivals, in fact as I mentioned earlier, it’s possible neither’s content strategy would be as successful without the other one.
GoPro relies on Red Bull’s sponsored events and huge social following to get its products recognised, Red Bull relies on GoPro’s ever-advancing technology and loyalty from photography professionals and amateurs alike to capture its events in brilliant and beautifully shot ways.
In order to match and possibly exceed the efforts of Red Bull, GoPro could do with increasing its engagements on its channels outside of YouTube, makes its own website more of an active hub for its users, perhaps extend its reach into other appropriate areas as Red Bull has done with its events and definitely begin using new social video channels with much more commitment and intensity.
In the meantime however, Red Bull may not have delivered a final knockout blow but it has certainly won on points.
For more on content marketing, check out Dollar Shave Club’s content marketing strategy since ‘that’ video, A look inside Amtrak’s excellent content marketing strategy and The LEGO Movie: content marketing triumph or 100 minute advert?
To find out more about content marketing, attend our Festival of Marketing event in November, a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.