Season two of HBO’s hit comedy Silicon Valley, a show which makes fun of large computer corporations like Google through the story of a computer company startup, recently ended its second season. In this season there is an episode where the main characters Richard and Erlich need to find a company to utilize their livestreaming service to get publicity. They end up attempting to make an agreement with a made up energy drink company called Homicide, with a deal to stream a humorously impossible extreme car jump across two skyscrapers. In this episode, the company Homicide is a parody of Monster energy drink, and the way they profit by sponsoring extreme sports and creating an intense image.
Monster and RedBull, along with many other energy drink companies, build an image through extreme sports. Monster is by far the biggest in this business. They have sponsored almost every extreme sport from snowboarding, to cycling, to speedway racing and even bull riding. They endorse these events and then proceed to plaster their logo all over the stadiums and streams. This strategy allows them to be associated with these events, and the goal of this is to make the consumers of these events also become consumers of Monster.
Not only does this make the consumers buy their energy drink, but it also gives the Monster Company a certain reputation of being just as extreme as the events they sponsor. The hope is that consumers will think that Monster is a cool company and therefore become consumers not only of their energy drink, but of their brand in general. For this reason, Monster sells all sorts of memorabilia with their green “monster claw” logo plastered all over it. For example, you may be familiar with the “Monster Hoodie”. This famous piece of merchandise is very popular at extreme sporting events and amongst young adolescents.
Why did Monster choose these extreme sports as the place they mainly advertise? The answer is really quite simple; they know their audience. Unsurprisingly, the largest demographic of extreme sports in America is by far males from the age of 12-35. Monster is also well known for being a drink that is full of so much caffeine it literally has a warning label that pregnant women should stay away from it entirely… Not only that, but the caffeine is mixed with ginseng. This combination of ingredients is so ridiculously unhealthy that it actually was entirely banned by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in early 2015. So it makes sense that they advertise their product to a demographic that isn’t as likely to care about their health as much as 40 year old women.
Speaking of understanding their audience, Monster and RedBull actually both recently embarked on a new way of advertising. In 2012, both Monster and RedBull became sponsors of Esports teams. This means that they sponsored professional video game players for video games like Dota and League of Legends. They pay for these video game players to go around the country and play in tournaments in exchange for some free advertising. This may seem odd, as Esports already have such a cult fanbase. However, this turned out to easily be profitable for both of them. As it turns out most gamers, even the professionals, are fans of drinking energy drinks when playing their games for multiple hours.
Monster and RedBull, and all energy drinks are unhealthy. This is an indisputable fact. Unlike most companies though, they don’t try to hide their unhealthiness with fancy labels and lies. These companies are odd and ridiculous, which is probably why Silicon Valley found it so easy to make fun of the way they operate. The fake company Homicide from the show is a caricature of the energy drink business model, describing everything as “extreme” and having an office space with few actual workers and instead many skateboarders and half pipes. However, at the end of the episode, Homicide ends up gaining publicity while the main characters of the show end up getting screwed over by the company. The episode ends like this to show that while these companies may try to create a “cool and extreme” personality, they are still after profit, and continuously ignore the health of their consumers and the companies they are meant to cooperate with.