Publicity jump

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Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking free-fall was a small step for man, but a giant leap for Red Bull’s corporate image.

Baumgartner plummeted to the ground at the speed of sound on Sunday, landing safely on his feet in the culmination of the Red Bull Stratos project — the latest attempted skydive from space.

It’s a statistically impressive feat: the veteran BASE jumper broke the sound barrier with a speed of Mach 1.24, free-falling for four minutes and 20 seconds.

The coverage that surrounded the event alluded to the Moon landings of the 1960s — families crowding around televisions to witness a ground-breaking human achievement.

This time around, the ubiquitous “Red Bull” logo adorned every free surface: shoulders, helmet, parachute and capsule.

Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon were seen as leaps for mankind, not for a corporate patron. The $5-billion company hasn’t disclosed the specific cost of the Stratos project, but reportedly spend around 35 per cent of their budget on marketing anually.

Athletes receive sponsorship from this massive budget. While talented individuals certainly deserve access to their passions, what role does corporate sponsorship have to play beyond traditional contracting?

It’s shocking to see a sponsor take over in a domain that was solely occupied by NASA. Hopefully, audiences will see this event for what it is — a publicity stunt veiled behind an extreme feat of human athleticism. Baumgartner’s achievement should be applauded, but Red Bull’s part in this should be scrutinized first before it is consumed without a second thought.

Tristan is the Production Manager at the Journal.

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