September 12, 2014

Hype, Sunscreen & 27 Meters

by Sazzy Gourley

Sazzy Gourley ’16, a Royce Fellow for Sport and Society, researched the intersections between marketing, sport, and social impact through case studies with Red Bull’s 2014 Cliff Diving World Series in Texas, Ireland, Norway, and the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. 

My summer boils down to three things: hype, sunscreen, and 27 meters.

Photo Property of Red Bull.

Part 1: Hype

Diving is a unique sport in that both a diver’s success and failure can elicit the same reaction.

Example A: Diver jumps off platform, flipping and twisting to a perfect 10. 

Audience’s Reaction: Whoa!

Example B: Diver jumps off platform and smacks dramatically on the water.

Audience’s Reaction: Whoa…

Yes, they are technically different “whoa’s.” And yes, for the diver, Example A is definitely more preferable. The point though, is that diving is incredibly unpredictable. Especially from 27 meters, the margin for error is so high that its resulting excitement and tension shifts the audience’s focus from a success v. failure mindset to one of cheering for survival. In some ways, this makes sport feel more like show.


Part 2: Sunscreen

I blush at the slightest notice and burn if I’m in the sun for longer than five minutes without SPF 100, so at any given moment there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be some shade of red. Accordingly, sunscreen was my lifeline this summer.

While at a bus stop after the event in Norway, a man next to me said Red Bull was interesting because it uses “active” marketing to build its brand, as compared to “passive” efforts that use repetitive images to stick in a consumer’s mind. When you attend a Red Bull event, you see the company in action.

As a brand, Red Bull is all about getting outside your comfort zone and charging forward. Everyday was a crazy adventure. From helicopter site tours to speed boating with dolphins to eating Octopus with the Azores’ Secretary of Tourism, the action never stopped.


Part 3: 27 Meters

When I used to compete from the 10-meter platform, staring down towards the bottom of the pool would put a knot in my stomach. Multiply that height by nearly three and suddenly athletes are competing dives like Gary Hunt’s back triple quad (three somersaults backward with four full-twists).

FINA (the international governing body of diving) and Red Bull judge Sara Massenz told me, “This is the future of diving.” Red Bull Cliff Diving is completely changing the sport by redefining the limit of a single dive. With the increased media attention & public interest, corporate sponsorship, and international scope, we may well see a new Olympic sport in 2020.

After the final day of competition for the Azores event, I finally got to stand atop the 27-meter platform. My heart raced as I looked over the edge. The view was incredible.

If only I could have jumped.


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