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No Liftoff (Yet) for Launchpad

Splashy Red Bull crowdsourced marketing stunt starts strong, then goes radio silent

Man with the winning stunt plan: Joe Ridler

Red Bull just gambled (and won big time) on backing daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic sky dive on YouTube, but a crowdsourcing stunt may prove to be a more daunting challenge.

Red Bull introduced Launchpad, the crowdsourced contest, in February. Instead of going to its usual stable of star athletes, it asked regular people to submit stunt ideas and vote for them on Facebook. The prize: a chance to see your stunt executed, plus $5,000.

The contest attracted more than 220 submissions and almost 325,000 votes, per Red Bull insiders. The company even ran promos of the contest with popular YouTube videos of its sponsored celebrity athletes including Ryan Doyle, who runs across city roofs (200,000 views).

The winning entry came from Joe Ridler, associate creative director at Chicago packaging agency BurgoUSA. His idea was to have sky divers in wingsuits race through an airborne obstacle course. The social buzz he got played no small part in his selection. A Twitter account he set up for the stunt, @RedBullTopGun, drew 838 followers, while a Facebook page attracted 1,400 likes.

But since announcing a winner and posting video on its Launchpad site in September, Red Bull has gone silent. No time line has been set for staging the stunt and almost no fresh references to the contest show up on Twitter or Facebook. Among bloggers, the once-lively buzz about the contest and winner’s wild idea is petering out. AKQA, Red Bull’s agency on the campaign, referred questions to the client. Red Bull had no comment.

Industry pros experienced in crowdsourced marketing say working with fans who are unpaid amateurs is different than creating content with professionals and celebrities. Crowdsourcing is a collaboration, they say, and the fans need attention and interaction to keep them interested.

Jon Yokogawa, vp of consumer engagement for ad agency interTrend, said consumers are hungry for something that they can get personally involved in. This past summer his agency created a crowdsourced Web series for AT&T, “Away We Happened,” that grabbed an unexpected 6 million YouTube views over six weeks.

“A big advantage in crowdsourced marketing is the ability to see brand ambassadors appear and actually defend your brand by endorsing it or pointing out product benefits, via real-life experiences,” Yokogawa said. “It’s about having the crowd interact with the brand, rather than [passively] watch or get distracted by the entertainers or athletes.”

It’s understandable that Red Bull wants to tap those advantages. But the company can only hope that when the user-generated sky dive race takes place, the thousands of contest participants and their social friends—who initially had some skin in the game—will still care.

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