Why Red Bull loves the near-space jump

The company has been planning this stunt for seven years, and hopes the event further expands its brand in the competition with Monster Beverage.

By Kim Peterson Oct 11, 2012 3:00PM
If you've been following Felix Baumgartner's insane plans to leap 23 miles above Earth this weekend, you've heard a lot about Red Bull.

The Austrian company behind the drink is sponsoring Sunday's jump over New Mexico by Baumgartner, who is also Austrian. Red Bull has created its own "Red Bull Stratos" team, website and blog dedicated to the jump, and said it began planning this stunt with Baumgartner in 2005.

The jump is expected to go like this: Baumgartner will be lifted to near-space in a helium balloon 55 stories tall. The balloon is thinner than a Ziploc bag, and so delicate that once it's unpacked it must be used immediately. One balloon was wasted Tuesday when a launch was aborted due to high winds; the team has one more.

Baumgartner will plunge to Earth from 23 miles above, freefalling for more than five minutes, and hopes to break the sound barrier with speeds topping 690 miles per hour.

Red Bull isn't saying how much it is spending on the stunt. Each balloon is estimated to cost several thousand dollars, and one team member told The Associated Press that the helium costs alone for the aborted jump ran as high as $70,000.Credit: Jay Nemeth/Red Bull via Getty Images
Caption: In this photo provided by Red Bull, Pilot Felix Baumgartner is seen before his jump during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos on March 15, 2012 in Roswell, New Mexico

Red Bull is well acquainted with the extreme stunt business. It has sponsored the Cliff Diving World Series, a Formula One race and a 275-foot jump over the Corinth Canal in Greece. Baumgartner has already completed a successful test flight (pictured) in March in Roswell, N.M.

The exposure is exactly what Red Bull wants. It reaches out to its prime demographic and expands its presence in a rapidly growing energy drink market. Research company Mintel expects the industry to grow 86% to nearly $12 billion in the next five years, according to USA Today. Starbucks (SBUX) has entered the business, joining Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsico (PEP) and Monster Beverage (MNST).

Red Bull has been able to hold its own against those heavyweights. It holds an estimated 29.5% share of the U.S. market, USA Today reports, just behind the 34.8% share held by Monster Energy Drink. But in terms of dollar volume, Red Bull leads Monster.

Red Bull says it has scientific research in mind in its Stratos initiative. It says the stunt may help develop a new generation of space suits. Scientists may learn more about human exposure to high altitudes and high acceleration. And it hopes to further explore what supersonic travel does to the human body.

And it just might sell a few million energy drinks along the way.

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