DashFight‘s Elizbar Ramazashvili written for Esports Insider to present Red Bull’s history in esports and to highlight the brand’s important place in the Fighting Game Community (FGC).
Red Bull is one of the biggest brands on this planet. It is the energy drink equivalent of Coca-Cola, Apple or Mercedes-Benz. In many parts of the world, the name Red Bull is synonymous with energy drinks.
In 1984, Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya and Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull GmbH, and three years later they launched the company globally in Austria. Soon after, in 1989, he sponsored Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger. Years later, Red Bull created their own F1 team, Red Bull Racing.
It was a considerable risk and a significant investment, but it paid off: the team won several world championship titles at the start of the 2010s. Even today, it is one of the best teams on the grid, along with Max Verstappen, one of the most talented drivers of this generation, winning the world championship for the team.
While Formula 1 has always been an integral part of the Red Bull brand, the company has built its legacy in many different projects, one of the most important being extreme sports. Red Bull has sponsored athletes in motocross, BMX, rallycross, windsurfing and more, and has even started to organize its own events. Today, Red Bull is closely associated with the sports culture of young extremes, having placed more emphasis on these more niche and obscure sports disciplines.
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In recent decades, Red Bull has also turned to more traditional sports. It sponsors tennis, basketball, ski, baseball and other athletes. Red Bull even has top soccer teams in Austria, Germany, the United States and Brazil. On top of that, Red Bull also sponsors individual players.
In the mid-2000s, unlike many back then, Red Bull recognized the potential of gaming and esports and started investing in this category. His first signing was David “Walshy” Walsh, a professional Halo player.
Since then, Red Bull’s presence in esports has grown considerably. The company has sponsored players in different disciplines, including Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg in League of Legends and Ryan Pessoa in FIFA. He’s also sponsored various esports organizations including the OG of Dota 2, two-time winner of The International. OG even integrated the Red Bull brand into its renewed organization logo.
In 2017, the company attempted to compete in one of League of Legends’ most prestigious championships – the European LCS. The team, aptly named Red Bulls, had a serious mix of veteran talent in Raymond “kaSing” Tsang, and up-and-coming superstar Carl Felix “MagiFelix” Boström. The team qualified for the playoffs, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be.
However, arguably the biggest influence Red Bull has had in any esports discipline is in fighting games. The Red Bull Kumite is one of the most prestigious events on the FGC calendar, generating untold hype. And even outside of that, Red Bull has hosted a plethora of memorable tournaments over the years: Red Bull Home Ground, Red Bull Gladiators, Red Bull Conquest, Red Bull Gladiators, and many more.
Not all of them were always top-notch – the organizers of Red Bull eSports understand the essence of the FGC. They know that everything in fighting games starts at the local level. This is precisely why many of their events are at the local level, held in different countries in different games.
Since Red Bull entered the competitive gaming scene, its esports department has never stopped the individual sponsorships it is known for. If you look at the official gaming athlete page on the site, you will surely notice that there are many signed under the banner of the company. However, if you consider the number of different esports categories and disciplines, you realize that there is only a handful of them per game, and only a dozen of them represent the FGC in his outfit.
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What you need to do to become a Red Bull athlete has never been public knowledge. Its esports program doesn’t work like your regular team. All competitors are free to – and many do – be part of a traditional organization while being under the RB banner. Yet the mere fact of being a Red Bull athlete is a major asset to the recognition and prestige of any player’s name.
For Red Bull themselves, this is probably a two-way street. Without a doubt, in a purely financial sense, this is an advertising sponsorship so typical of traditional sports. You get paid and receive additional benefits for representing the brand you signed up with.
And represent that they do – if you watch any official public appearance of a Red Bull athlete, they always highlight the raging crimson bull on one or more parts of their clothing. But it is not that simple. If pure exposure was the only goal of the Austrian company, it would have put its name up everywhere, sponsoring as many competitors as possible to reach the widest possible audience. Instead, Red Bull went in a different direction – introducing rarity to increase prestige. Only a limited number of players can become Red Bull athletes, and when someone does, the world notices.
There’s no easy way to be picked by the Red Bull esports team, and most of the time it’s not enough to just have stellar tournament results (that said, some of the players like Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique and Daigo Umehara are the first and best known for their incredible domination in their respective games). Players must be aligned with their values, push the boundaries and always strive to become better. One of those contenders is Jeannail ‘Cuddle_Core’ Carter, the latest addition to the Red Bull esSports roster.
Carter is a qualified player with multiple top four rankings, several regional wins to her name and the first two in the world with her character of choice, Alisa. She is also a role model for all the girls who might want to follow in her footsteps and become professional fighting game players. The Red Bull article on her back in 2018 highlights the ultimate decision to sign her as a contender for their esports team. The best part is that she doesn’t take anything for granted.
Even after big victories, it’s back to the drawing board for her, back to the lab, no more training. A strong advocate for more opportunities in the game for women and under-represented communities, she was recently Featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
By bringing more attention to stories like these and providing a platform for players like Cuddle_Core, Red Bull is proving that it’s there for more than just financial gain or short-term exposure. This cautious investment in the esports scene has given the company more goodwill than any other big brand that has ever entered the FGC.
This is the case because every new business requires understanding, and Red Bull hasn’t crushed the door and started spending the money. He knocked cautiously first.
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