SBJ/December 19-25, 2011/Media

Red Bull partners with Alli for series

After more than a decade of producing remote, outrageous sporting events and distributing them virally, Red Bull plans to go mainstream.

The energy drink company’s media arm, Red Bull Media House, cut a three- to five-year agreement with NBC’s Alliance of Action Sports, or Alli, to develop the Red Bull Signature Series. The series will see NBC and NBC Sports Network devote 35 hours of programming annually to longtime Red Bull events like X Fighters, a freestyle motocross tour, and Crashed Ice World Championships, a downhill skating competition.

Under terms of the revenue-sharing agreement, Red Bull will continue to run and produce the events. NBC will broadcast them, with 20 hours on NBC and 15 hours on NBC Sports Network, which will be rebranded from Versus on Jan. 2. The parties will collaborate on sponsorship sales and share sponsorship revenue. Alli, which operates the Dew Tour and AMA Motocross Series, will develop a team of employees to support those sponsors.

Red Bull has not historically sought partners for its events and was particularly averse to signing sponsors to support its Major League Soccer club in New York. Its soccer team developed a reputation for being highly selective about what brands it believed were acceptable to associate with its own brand. Very few were deemed worthy.

But Werner Brell, North America’s Red Bull Media House managing director, said that won’t be an issue as the company identifies sponsors for the Red Bull Signature Series. He said the company brings on advertisers to support its media distribution in Europe and Asia and has had no issues there. He added that the company will look for brands that share Red Bull’s interest in supporting “progressive sports.”

“Our goal is to establish the Red Bull Signature Series as a true series in the marketplace and to open the door to sponsors and advertisers to partner with us,” Brell said.

Red Bull and Alli hope to sell five major sponsorships and are targeting categories such as consumer electronics, automotive, telecommunications, retail and endemic apparel companies. Sponsors will receive commercial spots, hospitality at events, on-site activation, and customized content in programming and across the series’ new website, redbullsignatureseries.com.

“We think this has a bunch of potential,” Alli President Wade Martin said. “Red Bull is an unbelievable brand that a lot of brands want to align with, and the content from their events is amazing.”

The deal is the latest in a series of moves Red Bull has made since establishing its North American media operation at the start of 2011. Red Bull Media House has launched a print magazine, developed and released a feature-length film on snowboarder Travis Rice and struck a deal with YouTube to program its own channel in 2012.

The 20 hours of broadcast exposure Red Bull will get from NBC was critical to the deal, Brell said. “We want to bring all these sports to life to bridge the gap between the core audience and a wider mass audience,” he said.

For NBC Sports Group, the deal offers more action sports programming for its network and cable channel. The company announced earlier this year it plans to move 11 hours of live motocross coverage to NBC Sports Network in 2012, and the Red Bull programming will give it an additional 15 hours.

“This is a chance to supplement what we’re doing with the Dew Tour and create another tent pole for action sports,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, senior vice president of NBC Sports Ventures. “The more live sports we can get on our air to make us look and feel more like a destination for sports fans, especially the young sports fans that will follow the Red Bull Signature Series, the better for the overall NBC Sports Network.”

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