Red Bull : Thank You For The Music

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Given Red Bull’s symbiotic relationship with the music industry over the past twenty years, the news of the much-heralded Red Bull Music Academy being dropped by the brand has sparked much intrigue and surprise by fans and speculators alike.

On a macro level, a clear provocation is whether this is a curtain-call for Red Bull in music, with a loftier conversation also worth of discussion around what this means for the brand and music landscape in totality.

We look closer at Red Bull and the branded entertainment landscape to provide answers to these questions, as well as some predictions for the future.

Red Bull x Music

Having bulldozed their way into the space with their multi-market, ownership model, Red Bull has become a key player in the global music game, spawning iconic properties such as RBMA and Red Bull Culture Clash, that has helped it maintain an almost unrivalled level of awareness and authenticity for a non-endemic brand in the music space.

In a wider sense the energy drink powerhouse has been a pioneer and flag-bearer for both passion and experiential marketing, and their activity continues to serve as inspiration and best practice across these disciplines.

But an ownership model comes with a hefty price tag. Maintaining owned events, academies and radio stations, to name but a few of their assets, requires significant and ongoing outlay across aspects such as management, production and promotion.

Alternative approaches, for example a sponsorship or partner-led approach, sees equity borrowed from existing and often bigger and more relevant music entities, sharing and reducing costs in the process.

Whilst this leads to a dilution or reduction in exclusive assets or IP, this represents a much less risky road for brands seeking to leverage music on a shoestring, or whilst trying to find their dancing feet.

Having invested so heavily in music over the years, and with a vast array of best practice platforms and activations in their arsenal, we see Red Bull’s move as being more strategic and operational than existential.

As time passes, we anticipate that they will leverage this significant equity in a more targeted way, through focused and locally-led initiatives over global properties, enabling them to meet different objectives with culturally nuanced and multi-dimensional activations in-market.

Brands x Entertainment

So what does this mean for how other brands leverage the music industry? It’s certainly a valid question but the short answer, seemingly, is not a lot.

In truth, we’re living in somewhat of a gold rush in terms of branded music activity. As such, a more pertinent question FRUKT has been asking recently is whether we’ve in fact reached saturation point, with primary challenges to address around quality and effectiveness, rather than those of quantity or full extinction.

Reacting to an increasingly cluttered digital world, the experience age has seen brands upping their experiential budgets year-on-year in a bid to engage with audiences IRL, with music a key battleground.

And for mass-market brands especially, passions have been employed successfully as a means to segment their audience and marketing activity.

This has seen brands building up wider entertainment strategies, for example Red Bull’s growing presence in gaming building on their historic associations with music and sport.

Interestingly, a more recent trend has seen the convergence of these individual passions, bringing together, for example, music and sport, music and gaming or even all three.

As with any marketing activity, the quality will simply be defined by the quality.

Our recent report on brand partnerships reveals a universal audience desire across passions – that word we all know – purpose.

Of course, ‘purpose’ is a much-uttered and oft-maligned term in marketing parlance – we all know that audiences will prefer brands who authentically stand for something.

So in lieu of claiming your caffeine-hiked energy drink is going to ‘save the world’, experiential activations, the lifeblood of entertainment strategy, provides a natural home for brands to tackle and assist with targeted, real-world challenges and tensions without shoe-horning a loftier brand purpose. Examples include giving back to the gaming community, providing a platform for aspiring musicians, saving decaying venues or providing spaces for a kick-about in communities where this is currently out of reach.


To conclude, for Red Bull – the show will go on. Given the great job they’ve done setting themselves up for future success, we’ll continue to see a lot of great work from them in music, as well as other cultural spaces.

And for the industry, this is merely indicative of a chapter-change in the ever-evolving entertainment marketing story.