Paid for without a loan, the new Red Bull Arena represents the biggest and most visible foreign investment ever made in professional soccer in the USA, writes Matthew Futterman. Red Bull, the Austrian "energy drink" maker, spent $220 million on the stadium that opens this weekend in Harrison, N.J. While Red Bull has had flat revenue and faces challenges from rivals like Monster Energy, distributed by Coca-Cola, and Rockstar, distributed by PepsiCo., it continues its strategy of popularizing its product with sports sponsorships.
"As soon as we decide to take part in a sport, we either do it properly or we don't do it at all," says Red Bull founder and Chief Executive Dietrich Mateschitz, who also owns soccer teams in Austria and Germany.
The venture is in keeping with the unorthodox marketing moves -- including a festival for homemade flying machines and a half-pipe built for Olympic snowboarder Shaun White -- Red Bull has become known for since its emergence in Europe in the late 1980s.
John Sicher, publisher of the trade publication Beverage Digest, says Red Bull's brand strength allowed it to outpace the industry last year in the USA, when the premium-priced energy-drink market was growing at just 0.1% and Red Bull sales were up 1.1%. Red Bull says it sold 3.9 billion cans of its product last year worldwide. It said its revenue was $3.27 billion ($4.51 billion) in 2009, compared with $3.32 billion in 2008. In the USA, Red Bull has a 33% share of the energy-drink market by dollars, ahead of Coke's Monster, which has a 27% share and holds second place. But Monster has been gaining with the help of its parent company, as has Pepsi's Rockstar.