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Red Bull Through the Lens of Instagram

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Chris Kirksey


a case study done on red bull social media

Creative Marketing Case Study: Red Bull Through the Lens of Instagram

Red Bull is hands-down one of the most inspiring companies in terms of content marketing. Let’s dive into why that is, starting with their utilization of social media.

Red Bull Instagram Background

Instagram is a social media platform that provides a service for a community of more than 800 million to capture and share the world’s moments (Balakrishnan, 2017). Its users engage in photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking through their either public or private profiles.

Instagram allows users to share on the app as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Kevin Systrom is the CEO and co-founder of Instagram and is responsible for the company’s overall vision and strategy. He works alongside Mike Krieger, the CTO, and co-founder, to build this global community that shares more than 95 million photos every day (Lister, 2018).

How Consumers use Instagram

Consumers sign up for Instagram, most likely through Facebook, as Facebook owns Instagram. Instagram is a social media platform where users post pictures and videos for followers to see. Once a user has chosen a photo/video to upload, they can then choose from over 20 filters, add captions, hashtags, geotags, and tag their friends. When one posts a picture, followers can like, comment, or even share the post.

Taking and posting pictures is easy and can be done through the application where users can either take a new photo or video or use an existing one. Users can follow many different types of accounts, such as friends, family, celebrities, political figures, companies, etc. Instagram provides enjoyment to all consumers due to being fun and easy to use.

How Businesses Use Instagram

Since the recent introduction of Instagram Business Tool, including Dynamic Ads and Promoted Posts, the social media platform has seen a surge in advertising expenditures. In the first year, Instagram yielded $595 million. By 2019, Instagram is expected to bring in $10 billion in mobile ad revenues (Lister, 2018).

With the introduction of Instagram Business Tools in 2016, firms now have an arsenal of tools and features to target their customers on Instagram more effectively.

Brands can now create free business profiles that include access to follower insight statistics and the ability to promote posts. The insights feature allows businesses to access demographic and behavioral information about their followers, monitor Instagram trends, measure audience engagement and identify influencers.

By understanding their followers and measuring post effectiveness, businesses can create more targeted, relevant and compelling content to appeal to Instagram users.

Another significant feature introduced with Instagram Business Tools is the ability to create Dynamic Ads and promote well-performing ads. Dynamic Ads allow advertisers to market products and brands based on Instagram user’s internet behavior.

Similarly, promoted posts enable businesses to turn pre-existing posts into ads by adding a call to action button and selecting a target audience to promote to. By utilizing Dynamic Ads and Promote tools, businesses can reach a broader audience on Instagram and use the social media app to drive online sales.

In addition to utilizing Instagram Business Tools, brands can use the social media platform to increase reach and engagement through a number of different techniques. Sprout Social, a social media management software company, suggests posting content that is a mix of “promotional and inspiring content,” to better engage with your audience and give them the content that they want.

Some ways to get your audience to participate include holding contests or giveaways, create a trending hashtag, regularly engage with users that engage in your content, produce content for Instagram stories, promote user-generated content, ask questions and post from unique locations (Olenski, 2018).  Sprout Social also suggests posting regularly and during optimal times (Mondays and Thursdays tend to drive the most engagement).

One way businesses can use Instagram to complement existing traditional advertising and promotions is through campaign hashtags. Hashtags are an excellent way for companies to get discovered by potential consumers and connect with their existing followers. For example, in 2015, Red Bull introduced the #PutACanOnIt campaign.

This campaign began when Red Bull discovered a photo on Twitter of a user holding a Red Bull can on top of a Mini Cooper. Red Bull loved the picture, created the hashtag and ran the campaign began. It only took a few short months for this hashtag to take off and over 10,000 #PutACanOnIt photos were uploaded with the hashtag giving Red Bull original user-generated content completely for free. (Shorty Awards, 2018).

Red Bulls Background

Red Bull was founded in Australia in 1987 (Forbes, 2017). Today, the company is worth $8.7 billion, and as of May 2017, Red Bull has sold 6.06 billion cans (Forbes, 2017). Red Bull focuses on content marketing, rather than advertising the product itself. They spend 2 million dollars annually on marketing to expose their products to different marketing platforms. The purpose of the Red Bull energy drink is to give consumers energy while enjoying the beverage’s taste.

Red Bull is a member of the Advertising Material Distribution Services industry, with the NAICS code being 541870. This NAICS category focuses on direct distribution or delivery of advertisements. Red Bull is known for having representatives distributing free samples of their product at bars, restaurants, college campuses, etc.

Red Bull’s product is an energy drink that is targeted to consumers between the ages of 15-34 who enjoy the outdoors, extreme sports, taking risks, and having fun.

The Red Bull energy drink was a landmark item that targets the extreme sports athletes and the everyday grind athlete. With its strong social media presence to complement the massive events they do, Red Bull positions itself as the energy drink to help athletes achieve extreme goals.

Red Bull utilizes Instagram to promote its products and spread its brand image across the world. The brand that gives you wings was listed on Forbes magazine’s “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” and was estimated to have a net worth of $8.7 Billion (Forbes, 2017). Australian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull in the mid-1980s after being inspired by functional drinks from the Far East. He created the formula of Red Bull Energy Drink to suit the tastes of Westerners.

Mateschitz then partnered with Chaleo to develop the unique marketing concept of Red Bull. On April 1 of 1987, Red Bull Energy Drink was sold for the very first time in its home market of Austria (GmbH, 2016). The launch not only introduced an entirely new product but a new product category as well. Today, Red Bull is available in more than 171 countries, and 6.06 billion cans of Red Bull have been consumed so far (Forbes, 2017).

Red Bull is continuously making efforts to expand its business in new and exciting ways. The company is rolling out new flavors for the upcoming year including, acai and lime, as well as rolling out Tangerine, Orange Edition, in the on-premise market. The company has created partnership agreements with bars and restaurants across the globe which involves cutting them a quarterly check for a case rebate price, an opportunity for a bonus if they hit their volume goal, a marketing bank which can be spent on events such as industry parties or impromptus to support drink features.

Red Bull emphasizes product experience and having its consumers identify with the brand through the attraction of bizarre sponsored events. Red Bull is not focused on acquiring any new companies, they focus their time on the product experience and keeping their loyal customers through the use of RB sponsored events such as Flying Bach, Amaphiko, RB Music Academy (Red Bull, 2016).

Red Bull’s effects are known throughout the world by a variety of people such as top athletes, busy professionals, college students and travelers on long journeys. The company achieves this reach through partnering with athletes as they are a good way to express the brand’s image and that active lifestyle Red Bull identifies with; Universities to have programs for students such as brand ambassadors and the wings team; as well as several music festivals including, Coachella and Ultra.

These internal promotions of sponsored events are unique to the company and serve to identify with consumers with the brand itself and encourage consumers to live the active lifestyle that Red Bull supports. These events generate massive brand recognition and have often been covered in the news. PR Newswire wrote an article covering Red Bull’s event “Distance Between Dreams” where an icon surfer, Ian Walsh, faces the world’s biggest waves (Newswire, 2016).

The social media strategy surrounds the use of extreme sports in exotic places with captions that are almost daring you to be a part of the fun, as seen in Figure 1. They provide crystal clear images along with captions such as, “Tag your wingman” in a picture of athletes wingsuit gliding, pictured in Figure 2, and, “Light up the weekend” with a picture of an extreme BMX rider going over a fire pit.

This is an enticing and effective strategy to use because many fans of the energy drink may never go to the extremes that they feature but they will be given the confidence and “swagger” when drinking Red Bull to perform at their best. Company goals surround the number of cans sold and exposure to different cultures and countries. They pride themselves on having sold 6.06 billion cans across 171 countries in 2017.

Figure 1. Typical Red Bull Instagram Posts

red bull instagram posts

Figure 2. Red Bull Instagram Post of Athletes Wingsuit Gliding

red bull instagram

Red Bull’s social media presence on Instagram consistently draws attention to the new heights it is reaching in the form of countries traveled to and extreme sports that the company endorses. Also, they have an incredible presence of professional athletes who endorse the company as well which is a secure way to broaden the sports fans that they are targeting. They use the combination of top-tier professional athletes and large-scale events to keep the company exciting and continuously expanding.

Metrics to Gauge Success

Red Bull is very competitive on Instagram, especially when compared to its lead competitor, Monster. Red Bull has a large audience on Instagram, with a total of 8.3 million followers, compared to Monster, who has 4.4 million followers.

Between March 1st and March 8th of this year, Red Bull posted 30 videos on their Instagram account. Those 30 posts each have between 100,000 and 600,00 views and comments.

Red Bull is a successful company through Instagram, sales, and market share. They generate billions in revenue annually while dominating their industries.Red Bull also has been successful in utilizing Instagram as a marketing platform. Their audience growth has increased significantly while generating a remarkable average of engagements per post.


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Balakrishnan, A., & Boorstin, J. (2017, September 25)

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Catch Surfer Ian Walsh In “Distance Between Dreams”
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March 8, 2018, from Factiva.

Olenski, S. (2018, January 17). 50 Ways Brands Can Increase Their Instagram Followers. Retrieved March 8, 2018, from

Shorty Awards. Retrieved March 8, 2018, from
Shorty Awards

Why Instagram Is Red Bull’s #1 Social Channel. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from Simply Measured.
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What the Top 25 Brands on Instagram are Posting [With Free Templates]. Retrieved March 8, 2018, from
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