Could Red Bull Become the New ESPN?


Who is Red Bull, really?

Among the existential questions that plague humanity, maybe this one is not as high on philosophers’ radar. But for those interested in the state and future of branded content, it’s one worth asking.

First, they were a company known for making hyper-caffeinated drinks; then, they were an energy drink company that was surprisingly content-savvy. Now, they’re beginning to firmly look like media company that happens to sell an energy drink, as The Content Strategist’s James O’Brien foretold 18 months ago.

Perhaps nothing helps shape the answer to the question of who Red Bull is right now more than the release of a new app,, and the update of another, Red Bull TV, which seem to showcase the company’s identity—as it stands today, anyhow.

According to Gordon Plutsky, VP of Marketing at Digital Bungalow, what Red Bull is doing is in some ways classic content marketing, but taken to the highest degree seen thus far.

“They know their target audience, and they know what appeals to them, which is action sports,” Plutsky says. “They’ve attached themselves to it, and are speaking to that audience in the language and the formats that they’re used to, which is completely digital. It’s video and it’s mobile.”

The new app acts like a mobile reader featuring original content—primarily text-based, but sometimes with embedded video—that covers action sports, music, e-sports, and general lifestyle stories. Red Bull TV, which originally launched years ago, now features full video coverage of the recent Lollapalooza music festival, along with streaming live sporting events and an arsenal of original series, like “Who is JOB?,” some of which are into their third seasons.

Who’s been watching three seasons worth of TV shows that haven’t been on TV? Perhaps Netflix and Hulu Plus have made the answer to that question obvious: millennial cord-cutters, aka a good deal of Red Bull’s target audience.

“If they really want to own the conversation among young millennial males, they have to have a non-traditional strategy to reach the audience, and own the conversation at the grassroots level,” says Rob Levy, president of InterMedia Entertainment. “What you see here with Red Bull is that it’s continuing to try to own the conversation with their target audience.”