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Red Bull Surprises With Magazine

Thursday, 12 May 2011 | 2:43 PM ET

On the surface, the idea seems absolutely insane. A drink brand chooses to branch out into another business and it chooses, of all spaces, media.

Photo: redbull.com

Part of that media plan includes a television channel, a production studio that builds everything from mobile content to full-length films and starting this week — here's the hardest one to grasp — they are launching a monthly, for-pay, magazine called Red Bulletin.

In an increasingly tougher medium where fans expect more and more good content for free, Red Bulletin's cover price is $4.99 and has a circulation of 1.2 million copies, roughly half the circulation of ESPN The Magazine.

"Red Bull could have said, 'We're one of the top extreme sports brands in the world, why don't we go into sporting goods, skies, snowboards or mountain bikes?" said Werner Brell, managing director of Red Bull Media House North America. "Instead, we chose to get involved with media products — movies, TV, mobile products and print. And Red Bull was invented in 1987 by Dietrich Mateschitz. In 2010, more than four billion cans of the energy drink were sold and in the US, Red Bull grossed more sales than Budweiser , according to Beverage Spectrum, an industry trade publication.

Red Bull's media roots got it start in Austria, where Red Bull was born, in the Fall 2007, when the company started with its Red Bulletin magazine. The company didn't begin selling the magazine to the public until recently.

The first issue of the magazine, which has San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, a Red Bull endorser, features stories on many Red Bull athletes. The 95 pages of editorial feature more than 50 Red Bull logos.

The stories are interesting by virtue of the fact that Red Bull's strategy of owning strange events — a donkey cross race, a street ball tournament, and a freestyle drumming competition.

There are other surprisingly good stories on a concrete block breaking champion, a Red Bull sponsored base jumper, and a story of a man bringing back a bigger wooden board to revolutionize surfing.

The reason the magazine costs money (there is a deal of 12 issues for $12 and some will be distributed in major newspapers) is because Red Bull's media arm is supposed to be its own separate business. Brell said the magazine is supposed to sell magazines, not drinks. The brand's full-length movie, called The Art of Flight, will hit theatres this year.

"We're fighting for eyeballs just like everyone else," Brell said.

"Consumers have more options than ever before and we want to win their attention."

Raymond Roker, the magazine's associate publisher said the publication is an extension of the Red Bull brand and "speaks to the core of our brand."

When I first saw this magazine, I thought it had no chance. But I'm willing to give it another try because these guys clearly understand the value of unique content. Whether they can provide that on a monthly basis and people will be willing to pay for it is just as important of a question.

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