Sponsors cop stick after shameless product placement in Fanning press conference

Red Bull and Ripcurl have been heavily criticised by news agencies and social media users after the sponsors engaged in blatant product placement during Mick Fanning’s press conference just two days after he survived a shark attack at the J-Bay Open in South Africa.

There is no problem with trying to market a product and even use product placement as an effective tool to do so. However, the more natural and subtle advertisers make their advertising, the more likely they will alter consumer behavior and ultimately allow the message to sink in.

This theory is called the “just noticeable difference” (JND). If the consumer realises that the advertising is clearly manufactured, then the impact is lost very quickly.

But creating a subtle, natural environment is far easier said than done, as RedBull and Ripcurl demonstrated.

Ripcurl and in particular Red Bull, were anything but subtle, with both Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson holding and drinking cans of Red Bull throughout the interview. There were also two surfboards placed behind the pair, with large Ripcurl and Red Bull logos.

Perhaps RedBull was trying to us that the energy drink helped Mick fanning fight the shark at the J-Bay Open.

However, Red Bull has effectively used product placement in the past and could take some pointers from their previous campaigns.

In 2012, Felix Baumgartner performed a death defying space jump from 128,000ft above the earth to break the world freefall record. RedBull sponsored his jump and positioned a small RedBull logo on his helmet and a logo on either shoulder of his suit. This more subtle approach is definitely more effective and more of a winner with consumers than the in your face, manufactured approach from Mick Fanning’s press conference.