Red Bull is no stranger to endorsing the quick and the dangerous. Only last month it sponsored Felix Baumgartner on his attempt to be the first person to break the sound barrier during free-fall. The live stream was watched by over 10 million people, and has since become one of the most popular videos on YouTube.
The company recently launched an app, Playgrounds, for Android and iOS, aimed at giving extreme sports enthusiasts — BMX, bikers, skiiers, snowboarders, skaters, longboarders, wakeboarders, wind- and kitesurfers, surfers, climbers, parkour(ers?), kayakers and more — a place to meet, discover new places to play, and most of all, a place to exchange stories.
The company threw a launch party in Toronto last week to celebrate the app’s release and to underscore that Canada is the launch market for the platform. Red Bull hopes that Playgrounds will become the de facto “hangout” spot for extreme sports enthusiasts, and to that end it operates very much like a social network, albeit one with a very narrow focus. You login with a Facebook or Twitter account, and can add specific sports you’d like to hear about.
When a “spot” is discovered nearby, say a perfect place to set up an impromptu hockey rink, you can add it to your list, see who’s playing there (or which Red Bull celebrities have done the same), take photos and video, and leave your impressions of the place. You can schedule meetups with your friends at those places, too, something that Red Bull hopes will encourage more organic organization around shared experiences.
Like other public social networks, you can follow (or “track” in Red Bull’s nomenclature) people and places, and have the app notify you when there is new activity from that individual or spot. Users build up “cred”, the virtual currency, by tracking spots and people, and by participating in the community. It’s all very mainstream for a counter-culture app, but that’s exactly what Red Bull is going for; a normalization of “extreme” behaviour, as the sports themselves become more common.
The company says that in addition to its iOS and Android apps, it plans to release a Windows Phone app in the new year.