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Dietrich Mateschitz, the businessman who invented sports sponsorship of the 21st century to sell soft drinks

There are slogans that change the history of marketing. “You like driving?” managed to identify with three words the essence that a popular high-end car brand wanted to achieve. In the same way, “Red Bull gives you away” It has entered the collective imagination in an already indelible way.

This phrase is the same spirit that implemented Dietrich Mateschitz to your company. The richest man in Austria He has died at the age of 78, and his news was known moments before the classification of the Formula 1 United States GP. It is not by chance, far from it, that the announcement was made in that framework.

His life story is that of a visionary with capital letters. Graduated in Business Administration from the University of Vienna, his beginnings were at Unilever, Jacobs Kaffee and Blendax. During a trip to Thailand in 1982 he discovered the success of soft drinks with exciting properties, he met Chaleo Yoovidhya, a local producer who sold a soft drink called Krating Daeng whose translation is… Red Bull. They came together, and two years later the company was born Red Bull GmbH, which began marketing soft drinks based on the original recipe but slightly modified. The rest, as they say, is history.

The wings of Red Bull: the sport

Mateschitz’s strategy for Red Bull was as simple to formulate as it was complicated to carry out. He realized that rivals in the beverage industry had a gold mine in events and sponsorships. They were walking advertisements: there are few images of the Los Angeles Olympics 84 without Coca-Cola or Sprite.

He quickly realized that Red Bull had to exploit this idea. If you put your brand on stages where there was action, frenzy and energy, you would let your viewers know that with your drinks you could do it.

The way to make its beverage brand known was to identify its properties with risk and adventure sports. Little by little he became a promoter of sports competitions associated with extreme sports: climbing, triathlon, mountain biking, jumping, skydiving… and Formula 1. It was in the Great Circus where he found the great vein of him.

After a decade sponsoring various teams, he bought the Jaguar team in 2004 to create Red Bull Racing the next year. At the same time, and associated with the former Austrian driver (and good friend) Helmut Marko, he created a quarry to take his own athletes to the top of F1. From there were born champions like Sebastian Vettel (four world titles between 2010 and 2013) and Max Verstappen (two titles, 2021 and 2022, and those to come). He also gave the opportunity to numerous runners since they were children, such as the Spanish Jaime Alguersuari or Carlos Sainz, although both are already out of their networks (the first outside of F1, the second in Ferrari). Not everything is rosy at Red Bull, but that is another story.

Mateschitz derived his philosophy to other sports, such as football (he owns the RB Leipzigthe Red Bull Salzburg or the New York Red Bulls). In all of them he implemented the same work philosophy: put his brand and his networks from the quarry upwards and achieve full identification, even burying the history of the teams (in the case of Leipzig or Salzburg)

From a sponsor it became a promoter and organization of sports activities, to the point that Red Bull is currently the de facto owner of competitions such as World Rally Championships, skate championships, the world triathlon series… In recent times, its relationship with sport reached its peak when it became a preferred member of the International Olympic Committee, thanks to which sports such as breakdance, surfing or sport climbing They are already part of the program.

The future of Red Bull is now pending what his heirs will do. Mateschitz made it clear what the way forward was.

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