Red Bull, the drink for the adrenalin junkies, has quite rightly been associated with the thrill of adventure – Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, New Zealand’s Levi Sherwood’s dirt track motorcycling or the freefall by the Red Bull Skydive team are just some of the extreme sports that come to mind.
On the contrary, the Red Bull Soapbox race, often known as the “World’s wackiest race” is a combination of comedy and carnage where amateur teams compete in some of the most outrageous, self-made, soapbox motor craft resembling large pieces of cheese, coffins, skateboards and incredible flying machines. The Race first took place in 2000, and has since visited over 80 countries including Austria, South Africa, USA and France.
It was launched in Taiwan for the very first time on September 29, 2013 bringing with it, its customary comedy of crashes. Entrants were to be judged on speed, creativity and showmanship with the first prize winner receiving a trip to the F1 Grand Prix in Macau. Indeed, the fun lay in failure, yet it required brave adventure seekers to build their outrageous soapboxes and race the downhill road.
In a country where only two types of events draw big crowds - baseball and political demonstrations, the challenge was not just to raise awareness about Red Bull Soapbox but to encourage submissions and make Soapbox racing fun. But the only barrier to this objective was that the Taiwanese do not have a “Do It Yourself” culture. You just won’t see a toolbox or a garage in a Taiwanese household nor do they create home-made things.
Initiative set itself the ultimate goal of making Red Bull Soapbox race the talk of the town. To do this, the agency replaced all media vehicles which are de rigueur with those that were non-traditional, disruptive and fun, tying in the brand’s inherent identity with the media strategy.
Taking a hybridised multi-media approach, the agency seamlessly integrated digital and traditional touch points while ensuring content diversification across these touch points to initiate conversations and engage audiences across all media. A well-thought digital strategy that included homepage takeovers, display and search ads combined with branded content approach led to building awareness of the race while owned and social media sites were used to drive conversations and buzz.
On-ground activations were launched at various universities to tutor the Taiwanese youth on how to build their motor crafts and encourage a do-it-yourself culture. Additionally, a tutorial was also developed and uploaded on Red Bull’s owned media site to demonstrate the making of a soapbox machine for those who wanted to understand the science behind these projects.
To further drive up the Race’s profile, Initiative engaged online celebrities to influence their fan bases. Over the course of the campaign, the various digital icons wrote reviews, posted updates, picked their favourites and shared photos from launch events driving up popularity for the brand. The interplay of these media together with on-ground activations created tremendous buzz and attracted a number of submissions as well as encouraged participation by visitors to the event.
Old and abandoned cars were used as the creative channels of outdoor advertising and strategically placed in parking lots to drive awareness in an unconventional way. A gigantic cylindrical wall at Taipei’s busy Ximending district that was never before monetised was converted into an LED display screen featuring Soapbox videos and graphics.
Partnering with Yahoo! Taiwan – the country’s most popular portal the agency built awareness through fun stories, images and videos with all content aggregated on the Redbull’s owned media site and linked with its Facebook page. This created an interactive user journey from awareness to engagement to sharing. The agency then worked with Sticky Rice to create a theme song and add a dose of fun factor to the whole event. Known for its zany, punk rock music, the brand immediately connected with the audiences, making the theme song an instant success. The song was played at radio stations during the course of the campaign while studio recording was streamed on You Tube and Red Bull Soapbox Facebook site.
The wackiest tactic was inviting a 60-year old participant to be the Race’s spokesperson and promoting him and his passion for hand-making his dream machines via video ads. Closer to the event, location-based mobile ads were tactically featured along the MRT line that led to the event venue, thus triggering a drive-to-action. Social media influencers and key opinion leaders were invited to be event judges to talk about their experiences with their fan base on the day of the event.
Never before did Red Bull Soapbox race see such tremendous fan and fun following as it did in Taiwan which received 426 qualified designs – the highest submission ever made, creating a new world record. Of these, 52 teams, manning their incredible soapbox creations shaped as bananas, pens, lipsticks and popular cartoon characters raced on the racing day, careening through the jumps, bumps, curves and swerves.
The event saw a turnout of 55,000 people, surpassing the attendance from countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Japan. Another 50,000 viewers watched the event via live streaming on Yahoo! Taiwan.
The pre-event activities created tremendous buzz with more than 160 media reporting on the racing event – higher than the coverage the most popular Taiwanese NBA star, Jeremy Lin received when visited Taiwan in October for the NBA match.
Social listening for Red Bull saw the buzz volume increase of 138% from the intended threshold and 1666% for Soapbox Race, making them the most searched key words on Google and Yahoo!. Red Bull Soapbox Facebook site saw 2,698 posts about the topic and thousands of comments and shares.