The Sporting Illusion of Redbull

MSc Sports, Marketing & Management

On a Friday evening, after my lectures, I went to a gym in Colomiers, to workout.

After the boxing class, I went upstairs to run a little bit on the treadmill in order to prepare the next trail season. I was running at a steady pace when two girls wearing Red Bull bags approached to offer me a can of diet Red bull. Not being a fan of this type of product, I declined. However, other people and coaches accepted it. As it was around 8 PM, only a dozen of people were working out, but still Red Bull convinced the majority to take its samples.

My Reaction

Being a Marketing student, I found this marketing strategy interesting and disturbing at the same time. It is okay that a brand like Red Bull tries to associate itself with sport. They sponsor a lot of athletes and teams in extreme sports and organise sports events. Selling energy drinks –  this seemed quite logical for them to make this positioning. Energy drinks are often consumed during parties and other big events, just like sodas. Red Bull also organise tasting sessions in the street. Fair enough. However, since 2013, the ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) recommends not to drink Red Bull or other energy drink while practicing sport.

The main reason of this is that despite the message Red Bull and its competitors are sending, they are not “sports drinks” ! This means they have components that can cause dehydration and mineral salt loses when used during physical activity. Moreover, energy drinks often contain a lot more sugar than sports drinks. Despite that, there is a big confusion among consumers and especially sport people. As Red Bull and its competitors spend fortunes to keep giving unclear messages on the use of their products, this situation is not about to change. It is even getting worse because they can now poisoned people inside gyms ! In order to prevent further drama, I think trainers and gym owners should be alerted of the impact of such drinks while doing sport. Also, legal clarification should be made to differentiate sports drinks from energy drinks in order to protect consumers more.

Moral Limits of Marketing

This example highlights moral limits of marketing. If it is essential to be known by customers and to sell products, companies should also fix themselves limits ! When you know your product is dangerous for one particular population, you should not encourage these people to consume it ! Unfortunately, profits often rule !

So if you do not want to put your life in danger while working out, I suggets you to simply drink water or to use “true” sports drinks bought in specialized sports nutrition shops !

To learn more about it :

Cécile Fori, MSc Sports, Marketing & Management and Fitness addict in my spare time !

Disclaimer : I do not work for an energy or sport drink company, nor in a medical agency. The purpose of this article is only to make consumer aware of some dangerous commercial technics that are unfortunately too common these days.


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