Energy Drink Wars

By: Tim C


Red Bull gives you wings - at least that's what they tell us. One thing they definitely give - is a lot of money to the motorcycle industry. Since the late '90s, Red Bull has been throwing cash at motorcycle events and athletes - the more extreme, the better. Competition is the key word here - and danger: Red Bull X-Fighters - guys flipping and flying motorcycles through the air. Red Bull MotoGP - guys road racing at 200+ mph. Red Bull New Year, No Limits - Robbie Maddison jumps 120 up to the top of Arc de Triomphe in Las Vegas - then turns around and jumps off it!

Red Bull sponsored riders are gnarly dudes and dudettes. Does the name Travis Pastrana ring a bell? He's definitely rung his a few times. James Stewart, the fastest man on the planet - who this year spent most his time on the ground. Mike Alessi, Andrea Dovizioso, Ashley Fiolek, Tarah Gieger, David Knight, Mat Rebeaud - these riders and more all pay huge marketing dividends for the Red Bull brand. Red Bull advertises very little in conventional ways - some TV - virtually no print ads, but they sponsor the baddest events and the best athletes - pouring millions of dollars into our industry - and they tear up the internet! (Wait! The internet is the new conventional way).

So you can't have competition without competitors. Both Monster Energy and Rockstar showed up on the scene around 2001 - the Monster brand is a product of Hansen Natural Beverages and by 2006, their catchy name and green claw propelled Hansen to the No. 2 spot on Fortune's Fastest Growing Companies list. Rockstar came out of Las Vegas and quickly secured the third position in energy drink sales. When it came to marketing, neither company had to reinvent the motorcycle wheel here - if it worked for Red Bull it would work for them.

Soon Monster was embedded in our industry. Monster Energy Supercross; Monster Energy Kawasaki; Monster Energy Yamaha; Monster Energy Girls. Athletes like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath (who jumped ship from Red Bull) Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Josh Hayes, Nate Adams - dominate the motorcycle headlines. Rockstar tagged right along, perhaps not as aggressively as the inventory was depleted. Rockstar National Motocross, Rockstar Team Suzuki, Ryan Dungey, Jorge Lorenzo...

I'm telling you, it's an Energy Drink war out there. There are now dozens of brands all battling for the same territory - but the "big three" aren't going away any time soon and to top it off, we now have a new sentimental favorite entering the battle... FMF. That's right, the Flying Machine Factory has recently launched their own Power Beverage. For over forty years FMF and Don and Donnie Emler have built their legacy on performance and speed and are deeply entrenched in the motocross culture. They also have one of the most recognizable brands in the industry with a huge following of loyal customers.

Here's the rub, by getting into the energy drink game, FMF quickly discovered how protective the "big three" are of their territory. Monster Energy Kawasaki swiftly removed the FMF logos from their exhausts and team graphics. Rockstar made sure the FMF banners don't line their sponsored motocross events and you can bet Red Bull will limit FMF's participation at the Loretta Lynn's Amateur National Motocross Championships to, let's say... Nada! When you are the exclusive sponsor of an event or a team - you have some juice!

FMF... what were you thinking? Well, how about this... analysts claim energy drink sales will top $9 billion by the end of this year and hit 19.7 billion by 2013. That's a lot of expected growth. If I've learned one thing over the years - don't bet against success - and FMF is a great success story. If they sell as many cases of their Power Beverage as they have pipes and exhausts, they'll do just fine. Besides, FMF is no stranger to the politics of promoting a brand and they'll slice off their fair share of the energy drink pie.

Notes and deep thoughts:
Having sampled the FMF Power Beverage at Hangtown - I'd say it's pretty tasty.
I've tried Red Bull, Monster Energy and Rockstar - all taste better with a shot of Vodka mixed in. As I'm sure FMF will also.
Red Bull used to sponsor the FIM World Motocross GP series - Now Monster Energy is the title sponsor.
Monster Energy used to be a major player in AMA Motocross - Now Rockstar is.
Since Red Bull was already title sponsor of MotoGP - Monster Energy sponsors the series' most popular racer - Valentino Rossi.
If Red Bull was around when Evel Knievel was jumping fountains in Las Vegas, they would have sponsored him.
I wonder if Little D will send me a case of their new Power Beverage since I said such nice things about FMF in this article?!