When looking at companies that dominate YouTube, it’s hard to miss Red Bull. With over 3.5 million subscribers, and over 750 million combined views, the energy drink powerhouse dwarfs most other brands - and there’s definitely a secret to their success. Red Bull has long been known for their sponsorship of extreme sports, and their commitment to entertainment the world over. Whether it’s sponsoring music festivals, or helping a man skydive from space, they are clearly leading the way in entertainment marketing.
Fairly recently I came across Danny MacAskill’s Imaginate and was thoroughly blown away. I know very little about street trials cycling, and I imagine many folks out there have similar feelings, which is what makes this video that much more impressive:
There’s a lot of factors that make this video so successful, and today I’d like to look at what makes this such an extraordinary video marketing asset, and how B2B marketers can follow in Red Bull’s footsteps.
Red Bull: Turning Entertainment into an Experience
What separates this video from most YouTube sports clips isn’t the high-definition camera work, or even Red Bull’s seemingly endless budget. It’s the simple act of taking an entertainment experience and wrapping it in a great story. People love watching impressive feats by athletes, and Red Bull expertly weaves Danny’s success as a street trials rider into a brand-free entertainment experience most fans would pay to watch in an arena.
The root of this video is simple - Danny MacAskill gets to live out his childhood dreams, playing on life-sized versions of his favourite toys. We start off with Danny as a child, in his Dunvegan home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. No trophies on the walls yet - just a boy with some toys, facing an increasingly impatient mother. While this video is primarily a demonstration of Danny’s skills as a rider, Red Bull sets up a small conflict - Danny has to stop playing with his toys and have his evening tea. And he can’t put that off forever.
Red Bull largely ignores the opportunity to brand this piece - the true hero is Danny and his ability to re-create the seemingly impossibly tricks he can pull off with his toys in a real-life fantasy world. As the conflict grows between Danny and his mother, we’re treated to an incredible shot of Danny leaping over the Red Bull Formula One car, perfectly mimicked in Danny’s childhood world.
Red Bull also paid careful attention to their music choices - Houston’s cover of Runaway may not be on most people’s top-40 radar, but its message of youthful rebellion and opression by authority figures is perfectly synced up to the pseudo-conflict that evening tea brings to this piece.
Taking The Time To Get It Right
While Danny makes every trick in this video look seamless and easy, a deeper dive into Red Bull’s YouTube channel proves this was not an easy video to make. In reality, Red Bull and Danny took over two years to finalize all of the tricks for this video, and if you watch all the way to the end, you’ll be treated to a few shots of Danny’s not-so-perfect landings.
Why include this footage at all? Aside from the fact that we have an inexplicable fascination with watching someone wipe out, this footage proves two facts - one, that Danny is human, and has worked hard to achieve his level of mastery, and two, that practice makes perfect. If at first you don’t succeed…
Pulling off the Perfect Branded B2B Entertainment
This video is definitely more of an entertainment piece than a commercial, but in the end, the two are not terribly different. Even though this piece came out well over six months ago, it still pops up in my Facebook feed - and Red Bull still gets the credit.
Not everyone has the big budget that Red Bull uses to produce this content - nor does every company have two years to get it right. But with that in mind, you can apply the same powerful storytelling, messaging, and polish that Red Bull does to your next video:
Show, Don’t Tell: Save your product pitch for your next investor meeting, and get creative. Rather than tell prospects about what your product does, show them with a fun customer example, or creative situation that you solve. Most of this video is built to highlight Danny’s polished riding, and incredible skills, but matching this up with his childhood toys in his childhood house elevates this piece from a pure athletic demo video to an engaging story that keeps viewers engaged until the end.
Stand Tall in the Face of Adversity: It’s no secret that the key to a good story is conflict. Even the Care Bears had enemies. Your conflict doesn’t have to be an impatient parent, or even a forceful foe. If your clients are struggling against inefficiency, lost time, or leaving revenue on the table you’ve got a foe to fight. Turn your customers into heroes for using your product!
Be Bold: A lesson we learned early on at Vidyard is that even if you are a serious B2B company, you can still have fun and make an impact with your video. On Halloween, we turned our friendly robot mascot into Frankenstein’s monster, and earned ourselves a shout-out for our terrible acting (but fantastic messaging). Taulia is also taking humour in video to new heights, spoofing many popular television commercials to promote their supplier financing platform. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always room for fun. Think about what makes your customers laugh, and start building something truly memorable.
Bringing it All Together
Branded entertainment doesn’t have to mean big budgets and millions of views - it’s all about knowing your audience, and making something memorable for them. If your audience is 20-30 year olds who buy engineering software and golf on weekends, make your next video is a spoof on Happy Gilmore. Selling to an older crowd with similar interests? Spend a day on the links re-creating Caddyshack.
The opportunities to really entertain your audience are limitless. For your next video, put away your product pitch, throw some creativity into your script and start making something truly memorable!