Why GoPro Could Replace Red Bull as the New King of Content Marketing

By Jillian Richardson September 15th, 2015

If any company has an inherent advantage when it comes to content marketing, it’s GoPro. Creator of the mountable cameras you’ve seen in dozens of YouTube videos and atop the selfie sticks of annoying tourists, GoPro has the luxury of tons (and tons) of user-generated content to play with. When content is the end product of what you’re selling, you know you have it pretty good.

But GoPro hasn’t been content to rest on its laurels, as evidenced by its permanent residency on YouTube’s “Top 10 Brands” ranking. In fact, GoPro has embraced content so heartily that it has begun to position itself not as a hardware company, but as a content company. As Adam Dornbusch, GoPro’s head of content distribution, said at Variety‘s Entertainment & Technology Summit, “The camera is just the tool to get to content.”

For GoPro, that means equipping athletes and other talented video creators with the funding and tools to create some of the best content on the web. Kevin Bobowski, a writer at Fast Company, claims that GoPro’s user-generated content is “transforming advertising as we know it.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because GoPro’s revamped business model is strikingly similar to that of the original king of content marketing: Red Bull. Like the creator of the famous wing-giving energy drink, GoPro wants to be as much a media company as a traditional CPG company. The main difference? That inherent advantage I was talking about earlier: GoPro’s product is, in fact, the means to GoPro’s content madness.

So just how is GoPro hoping to take on Red Bull’s massive media empire? Strap on your GoPro, because we’re taking a deep dive into its strategy for the future.

Committing to professional content

User-generated content can be great, but there comes a point when only professionals can get the job done. To ramp up its in-house media creation expertise, GoPro recruited Hulu’s former head of original content, Charlotte Koh, to develop longform features and series for the company. According to Variety, GoPro will start its in-house content creation experiment with mostly unscripted and documentary material.

The move makes sense, considering the company’s eponymous camera is much better suited for these kind of nonfiction projects—GoPros, after all, are more about capturing the moment from interesting perspectives, rather than filming the most high-quality, heavily produced videos.

GoPro also has media partnerships with sports empires such as NHL and ESPN, which have already begun incorporating the cameras into live broadcasts (such as last year’s NHL All-Star Game).

It’s easy to imagine some sort of X Games or NHL reality series coming from GoPro’s new media strategy—with special emphasis on the kind of first-person views only GoPro can provide.

So far, GoPro’s internal team has created 22 short films, plus a particularly impressive series of longform, documentary-style video features meant to promote the Hero4 camera. The orca documentary below demonstrates that GoPro is beginning to move beyond just sports content, and can use its unique perspective to tackle important topics.

More monetization

GoPro hasn’t been cautious when it comes to putting out video content. There are over 3,000 videos currently uploaded over the company’s five YouTube channels, and the company isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In 2013 alone, AdAge estimated that it would take someone three years to watch all of the content that Internet users uploaded from their GoPros.

Smartly, Koh wants to start monetizing this part of GoPro’s brand more seriously in the future.

“We are going to see more monetization of GoPro content in the medium term,” said Koh in Variety. “Eventually, content could become a real line of business for the company.”

Like Red Bull, it seems like GoPro eventually wants its content arm to pay for itself—in other words, it wants to create a sustainable media division that creates marketing content while also helping the bottom line.

Investing in users

Koh wants GoPro to be a company that values amateur content creators, even with its push for more professional content. Everything its consumers create with a GoPro has the potential to be an instant advertisement. These same people can be a great resource to make longform content for the company.

Michael Peggs, founder of Marccx Media, said, “User-generated content is more than dogs on skateboards and fail videos. It’s people living their lives, and advertisers are quick to capitalize on authentic interactions with their audience. If a GoPro camera can create those connections, then ad dollars will follow.”

It seems like GoPro is starting to live the dream it set forth for itself in its S-1 filing from May 2014:

Our products in the hands of our customers enable compelling, authentic content that organically increases awareness for GoPro and drives demand for our products… We believe consumer demand for compelling content, combined with our self-capture technology and the popularity of social media, create a significant media opportunity for GoPro.

GoPro has also announced an app that, according to The Motley Fool, allows users to create and share video clips from a camera or mobile device without needing to download the full video. In other words, it lets people share their lives more quickly and easily.

This is significant because GoPro’s audience is already on the rise. In the past year, GoPro has experienced a 40 percent growth of YouTube subscribers, and was the fourth-most engaging brand on Instagram, with 5.8 million followers. With more user-generated content to play with, GoPro will only increase its online following even more.

The question going forward is just how far GoPro will go in both the professional and amateur directions. Will GoPro start creating a TV series with their own pool of talent and media partnerships, or will they continue to reach out more to their dedicated fans? Judging by what’s happened so far, it will likely be a combination of both. Just don’t expect too much too soon. As Koh said, “You have to take your time to build something that will last.”

Image by Dudarev Mikhail
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