Felix Baumgartner Eyed by Marketers But Long-Term Appeal Debated

From breaking sound barrier to breaking the bank?

October 15, 2012, 12:23 PM

Oct. 15, 2012 — -- If anything can be gleaned from Felix Baumgartner's skydive from space besides the knowledge that a human can break the sound barrier without a machine, it's that risk-takers, when successful, are handsomely rewarded.

Red Bull or Baumgartner aren't disclosing the financial details of their working relationship, which began in 1988, when he began performing skydiving exhibitions for the beverage company, which was only a year old at the time.

"I would certainly expect that he was extremely well compensated for taking a personal risk and devoting all this time," said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of sponsorship consultancy, IEG.

Read more: How Felix Baumgartner Overcame Claustrophobia

While Red Bull has invested in typical advertising platforms like television commercials, the Austrian company's bread and butter these days is sponsoring sporting-related events and teams. They own the Major League Soccer Team, the New York Red Bulls. Red Bull also hosts an annual event the company created called, Flugtag, or Flying Day, in which people compete in homemade flying machines.

Red Bull did not immediately return a request for comment.

To say this recent feat was expensive is an understatement.

Red Bull has reportedly paid unspecified money to aerospace companies in Southern California, likely in the millions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The aborted mission last Tuesday, Baumgartner's first attempt that was canceled due to heavy winds, included money spent on a balloon worth several hundred thousand dollars. Even the helium is said to have cost $65,000, media outlets reported.

Andrews said Sunday's stunt was in line with the way they've marketed their brands for 25 years; that is, "doing things extremely newsworthy or very extreme."

"It was a very smart move," he said.

And it will no doubt make a superstar out of Baumgartner, who hails from Salzburg, Austria, Red Bull's global headquarters.

Andrews said companies or organizations are probably lining up to work with him or invite him to speaking engagements.

"Everybody's going to want him – especially in the short term," Andrews said, saying Baumgartner would be a good fit for an automobile brand, financial services or telecom company.

One industry that won't get a piece of the pie is any competing beverage company to Red Bull.

Baumgartner's compensation structure could include anything from a salary, to fees for events, or royalties from use of his name or image.

Red Bull Media House, National Geographic Channel and the BBC announced on Monday that they will broadcast in November a two-hour special detailing Baumgartner's four-year preparation in a documentary called, "Space Dive."

In the longer term, Andrews said it would be interesting to see if Baumgartner takes on another mission with Red Bull.

"He's kind of an instant celebrity now. Everybody's talking about him in the short term and long term," Andrews said. "He certainly has a lot of attributes that brands would want to be associated with: successful, bold, risk-taking, and the hard work and training that went into this. He really has a lot of positive attributes that companies want to be associated with."

Natalie Zmuda, reporter with Ad Age, was more hesitant to say that Baumgartner would be an instant commercial success.

Before Sunday, "Felix was not a household name," she said.

First, while Baumgartner may be recognized in extreme sports, he does not have as wide appeal as an Olympian. Until 2011, Red Bull was a major supporter of Olympic snowboarder and X Games skateboarder Shaun White

"Marketers working with [Baumgartner] would have to think about their target audience," she said.

Baumgartner previously had been a part of the Austrian army, boxed and repaired motorbikes.

As an Austrian, he would likely be more appealing to European marketers, rather than U.S. companies. However, Zmuda concedes, the fact that the stunt took place in the U.S. helps with the latter.

And, more importantly, news reports indicate that Baumgartner may be retiring from extreme stunts.

"I'm retired from the daredevil business," he said after the event. "I want to find a nice decent job as a helicopter pilot. I'll fight fires and rescue people. No e-mails, no phone calls."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events