A Brief History of Stunt Marketing

From Digiday:

In the wake of Felix Baumgartner’s excellent Red Bull-sponsored skydive from space, we’re taking a look back at some of the successful and not-so-successful marketing stunts brands have pulled. For more on how brands can create the content their audiences crave, attend the Digiday Brand Summit in Deer Valley, Utah, Dec. 2- 5.

Crash at Crush, September 15, 1896: 40,000 people gather in “Crush,” Texas to witness a train wreck staged and promoted by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The company delivers on its promise and then some. Both trains’ boilers unexpectedly explode, killing three.

Tour de France, July 1, 1903: In an attempt to boost circulation, French sports magazine L’Auto organizes and covers the first Tour de France. The Tour would go on to become an international sensation and finally give yellow plastic bracelets some meaning.

There She Is, September 8, 1921: The Business Men’s League of Atlantic City stage the first Miss America pageant to combat a drop in tourism after Labor Day. Institutionalizing the judgement of women in bathing suits did very well, and the upcoming 2013 pageant will be its 86th iteration.

Donut Daredevil, October 13, 1939: Professional “pole-sitter,” Alvin Kelly is hired by a donut company to promote its “National Donut Dunking Week” by eating 13 donuts dunked in coffee while standing on his head on a pole 54 stories above Manhattan.

With Love, Guinness, 1954: 50,000 sealed bottles are dropped into the ocean with a letter prompting finders to reply and receive a memento. The public relations stunt is eventually turned into a movie with Kevin Costner playing the role of the Guinness Brewing Company.

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