Red Bull, marketed as the drink for adrenaline junkies, associates itself with the thrill of adventure—Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, New Zealand’s Levi Sherwood’s dirt track motorcycling or the Red Bull skydive team’s the freefall are just some of the extreme sports that come to mind.
However, 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 outrageous, self-made motor craft resembling large pieces of cheese, coffins, skateboards and incredible flying machines. The Race first took place in 2000, and the brand has since conducted it in over 80 countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Austria, South Africa, the USA and France.
It launched in Taiwan for the very first time on 29 September 2013. Entrants were to be judged on speed, creativity and showmanship with the first-prize winner receiving a trip to the Grand Prix in Macau.
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 the race but to encourage submissions and make Soapbox racing fun. The main barrier to this objective was Taiwanese culture typically lacks the essential “Do It Yourself” vibe. Don’t expect to see a toolbox or a garage in most Taiwanese households, never mind the vim to create homemade things.
Red Bull's media agency in Taiwan, Initiative, set itself the goal of making the Red Bull Soapbox race the talk of the town. To do this, the team replaced all media vehicles with non-traditional, disruptive and fun ones, tying in the brand’s inherent identity with a hybridised multi-media approach.
The agency integrated digital and traditional touchpoints while ensuring content diversification across these touchpoints to initiate conversations and engage audiences across all media.
A well-thought digital strategy that included homepage takeovers, display and search ads combined with a branded content approach that led to building awareness of the race while owned and social media sites were used to drive conversations and buzz.
The company launched on-the-ground activations at universities to tutor Taiwanese youth on how to build motor crafts and encourage a do-it-yourself mindset. Additionally, a tutorial uploaded on Red Bull’s owned media site demonstrated 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, the agency engaged online celebrities to influence their fan bases. Over the course of the campaign, the various digital influencers wrote reviews, posted updates, picked their favourites and shared photos from launch events.
The brand used old and abandoned cars as creative channels for outdoor advertising and strategically placed them in parking lots to drive awareness in an unconventional way.
A gigantic cylindrical wall at Taipei’s busy Ximending district, which had never before been monetized, was converted into an LED display screen featuring Soapbox videos and graphics.
Partnering with Yahoo Taiwan, the country’s most popular online portal, the agency built awareness through fun stories, images and videos, with all content aggregated on Red Bull’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 a local band Sticky Rice to create a theme song and add a dose of fun to the event. Known for zany, punk rock music, the band immediately connected with audiences, making the theme song an instant success. The song played on radio during the course of the campaign while a studio recording streamed on the YouTube 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 tactically featured along the MRT line that led to the venue, triggering a drive-to-action.
The brand invited social media influencers and key opinion leaders to be event judges and to talk about their experiences with their fan base on the day of the event.
The race received 426 qualified designs: the highest number of submissions in the world.
Of these, 52 teams in incredible soapbox creations shaped like bananas, pens, lipsticks and popular cartoon characters raced on the day, careening through jumps, bumps, curves and swerves.
The event claimed a turnout of 55,000 people, surpassing 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 outlets reporting on the race—more than coverage the most popular Taiwanese NBA star, Jeremy Lin, received when he visited Taiwan in October for an NBA game.
Social listening for 'Red Bull' saw a buzz volume increase of 138 per cent from the intended threshold and 1,666 per cent for 'Soapbox Race', making them the most searched key words on Google and Yahoo in Taiwan. The Red Bull Soapbox Facebook site garnered 2,698 posts about the topic.