Bloomberg BusinessWeek is running a detailed profile on Dietrich Mateschitz, the 67 year-old Austrian marketing titan behind Red Bull.
Concerning the recent U.S. launch Red Bull’s international lifestyle magazine, The Red Bulletin, the real journalists in the room want to know, “what’s the visionary behind a $5 billion-a-year soft-drink empire doing in the media business?
On May 15, subscribers to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, and New York Daily News found a magazine called Red Bulletin inserted in their Sunday papers. The 98-page glossy features a cover story on San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum, as well as pieces on Bob Dylan, graffiti art, and Russian BASE jumper Valery Rozov. Billed as “an almost independent monthly,” the magazine is a product of Red Bull Media House, a subsidiary media company launched in Austria in 2007 that expanded with a Los Angeles outpost this January.
Mateschitz calls the multimedia assault “our most important line extension so far. As a major content provider, it is our goal to communicate and distribute the ‘World of Red Bull’ in all major media segments, from TV to print to new media to our music record label.” He hopes Red Bull Media House will turn a profit, but, as with his sports teams, he’s willing to wait. “In literal financial terms, our sports teams are not yet profitable, but in value terms, they are,” he says. “The total editorial media value plus the media assets created around the teams are superior to pure advertising expenditures.”
The Red Bulletin is one of the biggest magazines in the world with a global circulation of more than 3.6 million copies per month. But it’s a vehicle for branding, first and foremost. I can see why that might ruffle some purists feathers. My own answer to the riddle of brand-sponsored content is to make it better than anything else available, a considerable challenge for sure, but that quest for editorial excellence benefits everyone.
I haven’t read The Read Bulletin so I can’t speak to its quality at this time. Can Red Bull compete with ESPN and other action sports titles? When you have distribution in 23 major newspapers around the globe, the answer is yes, you can compete. But I’m not speaking of a competition for eyeballs. Can The Red Bulletin or other branded vehicles achieve editorial greatness. Can they win reader’s hearts and a Pulitzer?