SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
At Red Bull, sports marketing is more about creating events than renting equity from established competitions. So while the company has premier athletes like Olympian Shaun White on its roster and spends serious money in motorsports, U.S. sports marketing chief Chris Mater would much rather talk about projects such as Red Bull Flugtag, in which contestants design, build and pilot flying machines from a 30-foot perch.
“The rule here is that if someone else could do it, then we shouldn’t,” said Mater, who oversees about 100 events and the same number of athletes.
Mater, an Australian who was a member of that country’s ski team for six years, seems particularly suited to his job. After all, Red Bull gained early traction and popularity among the ski crowd.
After his career as a pro skier ebbed, Mater worked in sales and marketing for a group of Aussie ski, snow and action sports magazines. It was a natural jump to Red Bull in 1999, when the brand was launching Down Under. Mater eventually moved to the United States, working in regional sports marketing and content development, as director of athlete marketing and, finally, in his current job.
You can’t say Red Bull invented the energy drink category; coffee and colas have been there for quite a while. Red Bull just made it cool, and it garnered distribution in bars as a potent mixer for all-night partiers.
“We have a simple proposition,” Mater said. “Selling additional energy: Everyone wants that, and it means we can still take share away from coffee on down.”
Red Bull built a billion-dollar brand under a cloak of secrecy still so tight that originally the company did not want Mater interviewed for this story. “Most of us would cringe at the term ‘corporate culture’ here,” he said.
So what’s the mantra inside Red Bull?
“Keeping authenticity and innovation top of mind,” Mater said. “We’re such change agents that we want to push anything we do to the edge while still having a healthy respect for the established sports we are in.”