The Surprising Origin Story of the Red Bull Brand

Tyler Hayzlett
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Remember that time Red Bull spent $65 million on one video so that we could all watch someone skydive 24 miles from outer space?

Seriously, who the hell does that?

Well turns out his name is Dietrich Mateschitz. He’s the founder and CEO of RedBull and currently #53 on the Forbes list of richest people with a net worth of $19.5 billion.

Making him the richest man in his home state of Austria and easily the most prolific figure to come out of the country since Arnold Schwarzenegger.


I mean, what kind of strategy does one need to become a self-made billionaire selling a can of sugar water in an overcrowded and cut-throat beverage industry?

How does one take over significant marketshare in a crowded industry?

To quote the parting words from the final scene of Leonardo DeCaprio’s  Jordan Belfort portrayal in The Wolf of Wall Street….“Sell me this pen” (or technically an energy drink in this case).

Whatever your answer is, chances are, most of our marketing plans would have focused on promoting the beverage product to retail buyers. RedBull on the other hand,  developed a vision to dominate the entire world of peak-performance culture by promoting the lifestyle to build an audience of athletes.

Before He Started Red Bull

Long before Dietrich took over the world with RedBull, he had pretty relatable back story for a soon to be global marketing mastermind.

First off, it took Mateschitz 10 years to earn his degree in business from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. While spending his decade as a career university student he spent a good portion of that time working as a ski instructor to pay his bills.

After graduating, at 28, he spent the next 10 years as a the international marketing director for a German hygiene manufacturer called Blendax. They sold toothpaste…

Then, at the age of 38, something happend. He hit a wall. In an interview awhile back with Duff McDonald of Bloomberg Business Week, Dietrich explained his outlook at the time;

“All I could see were the same gray airplanes, the same gray suits, the same gray faces. All the hotel bars looked the same, and so did the women in them. I asked myself whether I wanted to spend the next decade as I’d spent the previous one.”

While contemplating the change he wanted in life, he went on a trip. He took a flight to Thailand in 1982, an experience that would change Mateschitz’s life forever.

The Origin Story of Red Bull

While suffering from jetlag, as the story goes, Deitrich was introduced to a bizarre working-class drink the locals loved called Krating Daeng (Thai for “water buffalo”).

Krating Daeng had a cult-like following by Taiwanese truck drivers. It was Invented by a former antibiotics salesman who owned a small pharmaceutical company, Chaleo Yoovidhya, who developed the original concoction as a low priced alternative to coffee.

Dietrich fell in love with the concept as a cure-all for jet lag, tiredness, and even hangovers. Dietrich came up with the idea to rebrand the product to a western market. At the age of 40, he quit his job and started out on his own.

In 1984, Mateschitz approached Yoovidhya, and convinced him on the idea that the two should invest $500,000 apiece to establish a 49/49 partnership (the other 2 points went to Yoovidhya’s son), with the plan to take the drink world-wide as dual partners.

When Red Bull Failed to Launch

Mataschitz struggled for the first few years trying to get the proper international license to sell the drink in his home state of Austria. He lost over a million dollars in two years just trying to get started. He still believed his idea would work though and made the decision to launch the brand to a different market.

The two then decided to introduce the product in Hungary, Germany, and the UK. With a revised product. Dietrich carbonated the drink and altered the taste and branding. They moved away from the Krating Daeng name.

This was a pretty mission critical stage of the journey. With no money left to invest in advertising, he had to borrow favors from friends to try to build a brand presence.

The Guy Who Invented the Red Bull Logo

Dietrich turned to a college friend who owned an ad agency. Johannes Kastner’s and his team developed the iconic blue-and-silver can emblazoned with the logo of two muscular bulls about to smash heads in front of a yellow sun. On spec!

Johannes was ALSO credited with the birth of the infamous slogan: “It Gives You Wings.” Which means that it provides skills, abilities, or the power to achieve anything you want.

It’s as much an invitation and call to action as well as a request to take on bold challenges.

Taking his new brand positioning to another level, Mateschitz’s strategy early on proved to be a brilliant one. Rather than promote the beverage itself. He immediately started to promote the lifestyle that he himself was lacking at the time…FREEDOM!

How Red Bull’s Brand Values Took Flight

Everyone values freedom and Red Bull sponsored it through sports and activities wherever they could. Inspiring others to pursue their dreams as well.

Most of the early sponsored events they covered were all Dietrich’s Austrian friends that were in his network.

Red Bull then went on to sponsored exclusive and exciting events that got high volumes and more importantly, FREE global media coverage.

They “sponsored” over 500 extreme sports athletes who compete in special and often record-breaking events.

Red Bull is More of a Media Brand than Energy Drink

Instead of creating a marketing department. Red Bull went on to create a media publishing house, Red Bull Media House, with the mission to inspire and fascinate people through sports.

And their strategy is brilliant. Triggering engagement through inspirational awe-inspiring videos that naturally go viral with their fan base of adrenaline junkies (with their brand prominently displayed of course).

In the post digital era where every brand has access to communication tech to become a media company. Few companies take it as seriously to heart as Red Bull has from the beginning of its inception.

inside Red Bull, led by Dietrich Mateschitz, is a true pioneer in every sense of the business. Stud.


The Red Bull brand manages to inspire people. Instead of marketing a product they marketed values: freedom and taking massive action in life while you can.

Instead of running commercials, Reb Bull became the show itself and ultimately became a legitimate publishing network.

By taking the bull by the horns and having the ability to play outside the box Red Bull has sold over 68 Billion cans..That’s roughly 10 cans for every human alive (But mostly from men aged 18-35).

I can still remember a time when nobody knew what a Red Bull was. Today it’s on par with Starbucks and Coke.

Average Score: 95%

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