So there it was with my copy of the Sports Business Journal this week, Red Bull’s new lifestyle magazine, Red Bulletin.. Lots of glossy photos (not one page without a Red Bull logo somewhere) and features of Red Bull sponsored events and athletes from around the globe. A great example in one publication of the breath of Red Bull sponsorship and brand value…arts, traditional sports, music, dancing, extreme sports…all in living color and without ads. Not just given away to those in the industry, but also sold on newsstands and soon to be partnered with a long list of daily newspapers and dropped at one’s doorstep every month. But a hard magazine in an age when print publications are vanishing? For a brand that caters to an active lifestyle and whose consumers probably rarely pick up a newspaper or a magazine, and engage mostly online? Does it make sense?
Here are a few thoughts. First, the magazine, at least the first issue, really goes to great lengths to explain to the consumer who knows of Red Bull what the red Bull brand really encompasses. There is no sport, no lifestyle, no event, that the brand does not permeate. The artwork, and even the text, mirrors the style of what the brand wants to portray to the consumer, and certainly has something for anyone with even a casual interest in sports and entertainment. It is content rich for sure. Second, it is much more editorial than advertorial. Red Bull whispers but does not scream off every page, making the publication soft and subtle but effective on the sell. The mass distribution will also give the brand a larger shelf life amongst those who are not familiar with the brand, and over time may even convert and hopefully educate some consumers who were on the fence. It gives the casual fan another reason to think about engaging with the brand. But why a print publication, one that obviously was created and planned at great cost? While it is probably true that the average Red Bull consumer is less apt to read a magazine (at least an American consumer) than use a site full of content, the target may not exactly be the red Bull consumer. Maybe it is more the mainstream person whose son or daughter likes the product they have never tried themselves? Maybe it is reaching a beer drinking demo who is not aware of Red Bulls brand values, or even an active lifestyle person who has little awareness of the consistent sponsorship platforms Red Bull takes on. Maybe it is more affinity to assist Red Bull sponsored teams and athletes in growing their own awareness, helping the performer or athlete get more mainstream as much as the brand. Maybe it is not viewed as much as editorial and more as a hard carve out of a marketing budget which could have been spent in the traditional. All of those questions will be answered over time with the magazine and how it effects sales and brand awareness
There is no doubt Red Bulletin makes a loud statement to the sports world and to the publishing world. It is counter to what many are doing, migrating to online publications and away from newsstands. It also speaks more to a European or Far Eastern method of engaging sports fans, where a culture still consumes its sports news in print form than online. It also remains to be seen if the content of Red Bull-specific athletes and lifestyle partners can be compelling enough to keep consumers reading every month. There is also the brand partnership possibility…will other companion brands sign up for promotions and activation programs, looking to work with Red Bull to speak to the core audience. Will it work? If it does could we see a surge in new glossy print publications specifically created to mix advertorial and editorial? It certainly wouldn’t hurt the job market, and depending on the continued quality of the publication, could help raise the level of quality in the print world. It is a bold experiment by a bold brand which usually does its homework and then exploits to the max to grow its brand. Watching the results will be interesting. Could Starbucks World be next?