Red Bull Marketing Research

As a part of an advertising research class in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I collaboratively worked in a group to research the marketing for the energy drink company Red Bull.

Our research project focused on the unhealthy perception of the energy drink and the male focused image Red Bull has created through marketing.  

We conducted a well rounded study that consisted of secondary research, a focus group, ethnographic observations, and a survey in order to determine the opinion college students have on Red Bull. 

Do women feel represented by Red Bull’s marketing efforts? What factors create a strong association between Red Bull and unhealthiness for consumers?

These focus questions came about after conducting secondary research on the perception of Red Bull’s product and brand.  There is a preconceived notion that all energy drinks are innately unhealthy due to various beliefs about high levels of certain ingredients. Our research also found a clear connection between Red Bull and masculinity due to the years of male dominated marketing. 

Our group was entirely female and this became a focal point of ours. In college, I work for Red Bull and am responsible for introducing the product to potential new consumers.  I knew from my experiences that women liked Red Bull, however, their marketing rarely highlights women in extreme sports.

With the growing amount of energy drinks available in the market, our team deemed this a massive opportunity to prevent the female audience from pivoting towards another brand. 

We developed a SWOT analysis to outline these various findings and shape the focus of our own research.

Our Research 

Our research included the collection of qualitative and quantitative data to answer our questions. Firstly, we conduct a focus group to gain insight into the perception college students have on energy drinks and Red Bull.

There were 7 participants, 3 of which were women. All participants were 18 to 22-year-old college students. The general procedure followed the layout below:

  1. Ice-breaker question(s)
  2. Consumer habits questions
  3. Brand association questions
  4. Health questions
  5. Website and Instagram questions
  6. Gender-based marketing questions
  7. What the brand can do to improve questions

The results of the focus group varied. Some students had a strong association between Red Bull and unhealthiness while others didn’t.

“I automatically associate anything Red Bull with chemicals and unhealthiness.”

“I don’t think it targets me. It just targets adventurous people and people who like extreme sports. As a swimmer, I never felt inclined to use it.”

Our focus group highlighted that people had opinions about the product and the brand. Some people had strong negative associations with Red Bull and others leaned towards indifference but the participants were vocal about their feeling towards energy drinks and Red Bull’s marketing as a whole.

The focus group was not enough for us to have a well rounded understanding of the overall perception college students have on the brand. 

We had to dig deeper.

Our second round of primary research involved an ethnographic study. We each examined how people behave when buying, looking at and drinking Red Bull. In my job as a Student Marketeer, I conduct ethnographic research constantly when sampling the product by observing insights I notice when interacting with consumers. I take note of comments regarding flavors, caffeine levels, consumption levels, and overall familiarity with the product.  

A key insight I found during this stage of research was the distinct association college students have between the product and a certain occasion.  


In order to capture the perception of a greater audience than those observed in the focus group and ethnographic study, we developed a survey.  We asked a wide range of questions to see what ingredients students were familiar with, opinions on gendered marketing, overall caffeine consumptions and a multitude of other things.  We used Qualtrics to conduct our survey.

We received a total number of  51 participants, including 38 people who identified as female (74.51%). 

While the survey is closed and we are finished collecting data, the survey can be accessed using the link below.

By analyzing the data and identifying various thought patterns, we were able to develop key insight into the perception college students have.  Our results can be found in the presentation below.