Since its foundation, Red Bull has always focused its attention on massive marketing efforts to elevate its brand around the world.
With this in mind, the Austrian brand has always been active as the main sponsor of both teams and athletes in various sports.
After having given wings to its Formula 1 team, the red bull company has been trying to make its mark in the most popular sport in the world for some years now: football.
The way the brand intervenes in the world of football has represented a special case and an evolution of the role of the main sponsor within a sporting process. For its football teams, Red Bull is the main sponsor, owner, and practically the only decision-maker.
The policy established personally by co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz provides for the purchase of companies and teams based in areas with a large population density, concentrating large targeted investments in infrastructure and corporate organization but also totally replacing the name and colors of the company.
The conflicts with the fans generated by this choice will be omitted here, where instead the Red Bull model of development and growth of young players and the results it has brought from 2005 to the present will be explored with the help of the Sports data FootureLab.
History of investments in the football industry
PLAYER RECRUITMENT: DATA SCOUTING
“Selling players is only bad when you can’t adequately replace them,” said Cristopher Vivell, director of the Red Bull Salzburg Scouting Area since 2015.
One of the hallmarks of the Red Bull group in football is the ability to get to certain profiles earlier: “We want to discover and recruit young, talented players as soon as possible and as quickly as possible,” the scouts thought; to do that, you need a structure that is outlined and works with specific guidelines.
Taking the example of Red Bull Salzburg, we are talking about a Scouting area with reduced numbers (one-fifth of a European top club) but with a defined strategy, typical of teams with the symbol Toro Rosso: each role, from goalkeeper to forward, has predefined requirements and search parameters. Over 400,000 players are monitored through data and videos, classified according to their qualities.
The first process contains mountains of data, terabytes and video clips, classifiable as Data-Scouting; the second step concerns “pitch Scouting” (a word used in the Red Bull Salzburg website): in the first step the Scout can already have an idea of the player and do an important work of skimming and focusing, but in the second step the work is concentrated in the one considered “away from the camera”.
How does a player behave when an offside is called? How does he warm-up? Every detail is considered and when the player passes all the filters defined, he is included in the “End scouting list”, with rankings drawn up according to priorities.
The product of all this work is stored and inserted in the company system, waiting for the moment when the Sports Director knocks in search of a certain profile; the process moves quickly because the Scouting work has already been done before. The same process takes place in the monitoring of the players that are shot on loan, to monitor the development of the individual player, taken care of in detail.
THE BIRTH OF A PROJECT: RED BULL SALZBURG
It all starts in Salzburg. On April 6, 2005, the Austrian company formalized the purchase of its first football team: Austria Salzburg, a first division team that until then had a small Palmares. Red Bull changed its name (Red Bull Salzburg), logo, social colors, managers and staff. It refounded the club, breaking all ties with the old association.
The project is simple: focus on young players and try to surprise them.
This is the case of the Red Bull Salzburg Under-19 team, a winning project for two reasons: sporting results and the development of its young players in professional football. Many of the Red Bull youth team members already play with Liefering, another team owned by the brand acquired in 2012 that plays in Eerste Liga, considered a real reserve team capable of giving space and opportunities to new players.
The most recent case today is that of Erling Håland, a 20-year-old Norwegian striker who surprised Europe with important performances during the Champions League round, bought for 8 million from Molde and sold to Borussia Dortmund for 22 million.
But there are many examples of good business through player trading:
- Sadio Manè forward bought for 3 million from the Metz and sold for 23 million to Southampton;
- Naby Keita, the midfielder found in the French third division and paid 1.5 million, sold to RB Leipzig for 29 million.;
- Dayot Upamecano, a center back who grew up in the Valenciennes, was paid 3 million by the Austrians and then resold to Leipzig for 10 million.
Karim Adeyemi is certainly the most interesting young talent at Red Bull. Born in 2002, he grew up in the youth of the German SpVgg Unterhaching, was bought by RB Salzburg in the summer of 2018 and immediately loaned to Liefering,
He usually plays as a second striker but prefers to receive the ball in wide. It has an impressive speed and its best quality lies in the 1-on-1 offensive, where it has very high success rates. We are curious to see what its impact will be with high-level football, where Salzburg will certainly try to throw it.
1 vs. 1 of Karim Adeyemi
The Wals-Siezenheim Stadium, known as Red Bull Arena, is the heart of the Red Bull Academy. Home stadium of Red Bull Salzburg and Liefering, it also hosts the Salzburg U19 matches.
EXPANDING VIEWS: RED BULL NEW YORK
In 2006 Red Bull’s football project arrived in the United States, where the company bought the historic New York MetroStars and, as it had already done in Austria with Salzburg, made them the New York Red Bulls. There were many negative opinions, mainly because of an apparent poor American football culture.
The team underwent a profound revolution, starting with the stadium: the Giants’ stadium was abandoned for the new Red Bull Arena, with an investment of 200 million dollars. Lower ticket prices meant that many fans could go to the stadium, making the team’s matches the cheapest sporting events of national relevance to follow in New York.
Red Bull’s strategy also affected the change of coaches and players, with numerous changes to the team and an attempt to modernize the game in alignment with the image of the drink. On the pitch, the New York Red Bulls have not achieved any major success, but over the years they have become one of the most recognizable U.S. teams in the world, thanks to the recruitment of players such as Thierry Henry, Rafael Márquez and Tim Cahill.
Difficult to build an effective Academy in a league like the MLS that still relies too much on the arrival in the United States of old European glories. However, despite not having amazing youngsters, Red Bull boasts the second-youngest roster in the championship (24.5 years old).
For example, Cristian Cásseres is one of RB New York’s top players. He was bought two years ago by the Venezuelan team at Deportivo La Guaira, where he grew up.
Born in 2000, he is an “old school” midfielder: he plays mainly as a central midfielder. He takes an active part in both phases, but the sports data we have developed shows a higher quality in the defensive phase: important skills emerge on tackles, feet advances, and second balls.
We’ll see if Red Bull will allow him to play in one of the European teams in the group.
Second ball and shot by Casseres
Example of defensive event by Casseres
SECONDARY PROJECTS: FROM BRAZIL TO GHANA
RED BULL BRAZIL
After analyzing the strategic plans and setting up new areas of research, Red Bull decided to settle in Campinas, Sao Paulo, one of the most attractive metropolis in Brazil. Here, with various difficulties, between the history of a land that exports inimitable football and clubs opposed to selling their brand, the Austrian company decided to found its new team.
On 19 November 2007 Red Bull Brasil was born and his house became the Estadio Moises Lucarelli owned by Ponte Preta, nicknamed “Majestoso”.
The ambition is remarkable: since the official debut Red Bull Brasil builds its own identity, in a few years it will be awarded several successes and promotions, which will take it from Segunda Divisão (fourth level of the professional state championship in Sao Paulo) to the Paulista Championship, the highest Brazilian league.
The team is considered a good solution for the growth of young people without excessive pressure. An example of this philosophy is Andrè Ramalho, central back. Since joining the Red Bull Brasil Academy in 2008, André has followed all the youth teams of the Austrian company to the first team. In 2011 he was chosen to join the Salzburg team’s junior team, making his debut in 2013; he will close with 99 appearances and 9 goals before moving to Bayer Leverkusen.
RED BULL GHANA
Ogakope is a country that is a hundred kilometers from Accra, the capital of the African state. It has a famous resort in the area, traditional markets, and infrastructure and here Red Bull has a good opportunity to found an academy under his vision.
In 2007 he decided to mark the African continent with another flag. Once again it is the contact with Austria that explains the project’s sails: Red Bull takes over the Soccer School of Lavanttal, a football school in Sogakope controlled by a businessman.
Contrary to what was done in Europe and the United States, in Africa the Austrian company is determined to change its strategy: if New York has served to connect to the world market and make the Red Bull drink marketing and business sparkle, and if in Salzburg the company has combined brand promotion and sport, in Ghana it focuses only on the discovery of young talents.
With an investment of 5.5 million euros and monthly expenses of 100 thousand euros to manage the structure, Red Bull actively enters the Ghanaian reality by building a thousand seat stadium and two other football pitches, as well as a very modern sports center by local standards. As said, beyond the participation in the regional championships, the goal of Red Bull Ghana is to discover through scouting and development of young footballers, transferring two or three players a year to their sisters in Europe or North America, before testing them with professional football.
An academy in every way, with study and training rooms and a strong growth structure with under 13, under 15, under 17 and the first team. Over the years, many promising players have come out of the Academy: most have stayed at home; few, however, have completed the development originally planned by Red Bull and have landed on the old continent.
Felix Adjei, midfielder, was the first one coming from the academy to be bought by Red Bull Salzburg: he was included in the Juniores team and after a couple of years he joined Liefering, Austrian team always affiliated with Red Bull.
A similar path for forward Raphael Dwamena, who, after playing a good championship with Liefering, was ceded to SC Austria Lustenau. The most promising is also the youngest: midfielder David Atanga who, after only one good season with Salzburg, was bought by the German Zweite Bundesliga team Heidenheim, which paid him 500 thousand euros.
Midfielder Atanga is the last player trained in Red Bull Ghana: in 2013 the academy is blocking the project for poor results compared to the original project. In August 2014 the sports center was taken over by Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord, a Rotterdam-based team that refounded the academy under the name West Africa Football Academy.
ELITE FOOTBALL: RED BULL LEIPZIG
After years of study 2009 is the year of Red Bull’s entry into elite football: the purchase of Leipzig comes after a detailed market analysis, which revealed the missing competitive teams in the former East Germany. First of all, why Leipzig? The choice is not random. It was influenced by the presence of the Zentralstadion, a stadium built in 2004 to host some competitions of the 2006 World Cup, and by the city’s catchment area, which with its 560 thousand residents is one of the most populated urban centers in East Germany.
With targeted investment, Leipzig could therefore quickly become the most important team in the eastern part of the country.
Not without difficulty. What made this difficult was the German federation itself, which prohibited Red Bull from using both its name in the official team name and the brand name as a logo. The solution was the use of two stylized bulls, and renaming the club “RasenBallsport Leipzig” – where RasenBallsport means “ball sport on the pitch” – to shorten it to RB Leipzig.
To overcome the legal obstacle that prohibited the club’s majority shareholding from being held by a single person, it created a club for a limited group of members with an entry fee of 800 euros, at least ten times higher than that of the most important German clubs.
In 2009 the German Red Bull team played its first championship in the fifth division and the first year, it was promoted immediately. In seven years the “Bulls” have gone from the small “An der Warte” in Pößneck, Thuringia, to the Red Bull Arena, a stadium opened in 2010 after restructuring work, which he owns. A very rapid development in sport, supported by huge investments in players and technicians but also in infrastructure, such as the new sports center in Cottaweg, completed in 2015 and cost 33 million euros.
Leipzig and Salzburg, as mentioned, are the two European football teams owned by Red Bull. They have a close link with each other because they exchange players every year; they are managed by the same people and are part of the same project.
We cannot talk about derby, even though there is a strong competition between fans and members of the teams, especially from Salzburg. The Austrians feel like a “second choice” of the property since even before the arrival in the top league of Leipzig, some of their best talents have still landed in Germany.
In 2016 in 12 months as many as 8 Salzburg players moved to Leipzig.
Although there is room for growth, the team (23.6 years on average, the youngest in the league) is one of the most important teams in the Bundesliga (currently third) and a surprise in the Champions League (quarter-finals). This is thanks to the club’s young lineup, through which important disposals have been made in recent years: not only Naby Keita, who passed to Liverpool for €60 million, but also the various Oliver Burke (15 million from West Bromwich Albion), Davie Selke (8 million from Hertha Berlin), Matheus Cunha (18 million from Herta Berlin), Bruma (15 million from PSV) and Diego Demme (12 million from Napoli).
Important the growth of Tyler Adams, who came to Leipzig last year for €2.63 million, one of the young players who has undertaken the transition from one of Red Bull’s teams, RB New York, where he also grew up in football, to what is currently the top team of the group, Leipzig.
Born in ’99, he plays several roles: in the midfield of Leipzig, he plays mainly as a play, but also as a right midfielder. Since the elaboration of the sports data collected by FootureLab his best qualities are short passes and tackle. His performance indexes are not excellent, but they should also be compared to the level of the Bundesliga, which is currently among the top 5 most competitive championships in the world.
Tyler Adams’ tackle
Tyler Adams’ pass
A NEW CHALLENGE: RED BULL BRAGANTINO
Red Bull’s expansionist project in the world of football continues: the famous Austrian energy drinks brand is the new owner of Bragantino, a Brazilian club that plays in Brasileiro A. The negotiation has been concluded for about 10 million euros. This is the second investment of the Austrian company in Brazil, after “Red Bull Brasil”, considered an Academy for younger and inexperienced players.
Owning a club in Brazil allows Red Bull to do without any intermediary, to have an inside view on many views of the South American continent, to know and understand better the local market, and finally to allow the youngster to grow “at home”, without being required to an early and risky move to Europe.
The history between Red Bull and football, more than ten years, is full of successes, curiosities, and developments: will this relationship have given wings to football?