Red Bull Gives Location-Based Marketing a ‘Whrrl’

Red Bull wants to not only get people buzzing this weekend with its signature energy drink, but also with the location-based service Whrrl. The Santa Monica, CA-based beverage brand has signed an undisclosed agreement with Whrrl, becoming the location-based service’s first-ever brand partner.

Dozens of special deals will be offered to “Red Bull Society” members via the service around New York City on Saturday and Sunday, said Jeff Holden, CEO of Seattle-based Pelago, which owns Whrrl. The promotions hinge on the Red Bull Air Races, where planes will fly at roughly 230 miles per hour along the Hudson River and by the Statue of Liberty at 500 to 1,000 feet altitude.

“What Red Bull really wants to be able to do is activate [people] in the real world,” Holden said. “One of the reasons they want to do that is to enhance their brand, so they can play a more central role with more mindshare in customers’ lives.”

Like other location-based services, Whrrl acts like a game. Users accrue points by influencing other people with recommendations. It has 300,000 users – who can join “societies” like the aforementioned Red Bull example. The societies are groups tied together by specific interests while individually sharing recommendations on activities. Holden said foodies, Bruce Lee aficionados, and Starbucks were examples of societies that users have voluntarily started since the format was launched in late winter. Red Bull’s society is the first officially branded one and has organically grown to 300 members recently, he said.

The brand is looking to increase that number this weekend with a bevy of related promotions. They include ticket deals for the air race, waived cover charges, drink discounts at select New York bars and clubs, notifications for viewing party, and recommended “happy hours.”


To push the event, Holden said 100,000 print assets – advertising Red Bull and Whrrl – will be distributed around New York starting on Thursday. Red Bull is also pushing Whrrl and the air races to its 4.2 million Facebook fans on a daily basis this week. A Facebook fan page update on Monday plugged the idea of utilizing the service on an iPhone, a BlackBerry, or another mobile device.

“It shows up in fans’ news feed and they can click through…to a sign-up funnel to get people into the society and activated on their phone,” Holden said. “After the Red Bull Air Race, we are going to be expanding [the Whrrl-based initiative] to many other cities.”

Holden also disclosed that his company will announce Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts as its second partner in the coming weeks. Commenting on how the high-end hotel chain will employ Whrrl for marketing, he said, “Say you are in the Maui Four Seasons. All the knowledge of the concierges, all the recommendations by them and the Maui Four Seasons customers will be there at your fingertips. There will also be deals from local merchants.”

Meanwhile, Whrrl has gone through various stages as a platform in the last few years and now appears poised for monetization. In terms of timing, it joins Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Brightkite, and Booyah as location-based platforms making increasing racket in the digital marketing world.

When speaking about Whrrl’s monetization strategy, Holden said, “It’s very different from anything you’ve seen out there, with regards to Foursquare trying to monetize badges. It’s very tied to societies and brands and people embracing societies.”

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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