Last month, professional stuntman Damien Walters did something unthinkable: a blind backflip over a car speeding at 60mph toward him. Talking about it doesn’t do it justice, so check it out here:
I thought to myself, “Wow, that would be a great way to get 2 million views without paying for the media.” Then, my rational side kicked in and the angel on my shoulder told the devil on my other shoulder, “What are you thinking?”
So, I simply posted a word for thought to my marketing friends. “Would your brand sponsor this? Just wondering…”
Of course, we all know the potential outcome of this risky endeavor. If the guy makes the jump, the brand gets free media and the associated cool brand factor. However, if the guy misses his timing and a race car slices through at 60mph, the headlines read much differently. The viral image of blood on Qualcomm’s logo amidst the tragedy would never be deleted from the internet – or our minds.
My most memorable days as a child included Evel Knievel preparing for a death-defying motorcycle jump. Long before the X Games or Red Bull, he invented sponsored insanity. The Harley-Davidson and Mack Trucks brands did well in spite of the tragic Evel Knievel crashes. But, he did live, after all.
We live in a new world.
The old world was interruptive and intrusive. Brands that advertised during the Evel Knievel jumps were firewalled from this type of negative exposure. We created ads that found a home among content that was created by someone else. Now, buying the media isn’t enough. Brands have to be the content creators to be relevant, interesting and authentic.
New brands are defining this game. Ever-present in the realm of PR stunts and stunt marketing, Red Bull sponsored Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump back in 2012 – forever cementing its role of creator in the extreme sports realm. It’s a unique (maybe not so unique anymore) approach that has Red Bull pumping out content to a highly engaged audience. Regardless, there have been seven recorded deaths that I could find related to the brand.
I love extreme sports, but extreme branding needs to be considered with a little more thought. As a challenger brand in the soda pop category, this kind of risk might be justifiable. What if the sponsor were Coke? Would that change your mind? These are the values that we must wrestle with now – not after the event takes place.