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Red Bull - The Most Despised Brand in Soccer

Updated: Mar 26

Lucio discusses Red Bull's rise in soccer and why it may be detrimental to the sport.

Red Bull is seen as a revered symbol of sports across the world, albeit association football is a big exception. RB Leipzig is one of the most hated clubs in all of German football, with their rise to the Bundesliga being funded by the massively wealthy Red Bull. The team is seen as a tool of a soulless corporation, only created to peddle some energy drinks with no history of its own. RB Leipzig’s rise to power is undoubtedly Red Bull’s greatest achievement yet, but was also a sign of a potential new age in the sport.

On May 19th 2009, RB Leipzig was founded after a pre-existing sixth division club by the name of SSV Markranstädt, had sold itself to Red Bull. Red Bull originally wanted to simply rename the newly bought club to Red Bull Leipzig. However, due to the German Football Association not allowing sponsorships to be directly in the name of a football club, Red Bull needed a replacement. In the end Red Bull decided to make up the word “Rasenballsport” (Lawn Ball Sports in English) as a replacement for Red Bull in the name. Now that RB Leipzig was created, they would slowly rise through the ranks of promotion, before finally entering the Bundesliga in 2016.

Red Bull’s entry into the Bundesliga was seen as a threat. The idea of a company buying a pre-existing club, pumping it full of money and resources was unheard of. Red Bull’s funding would help Leipzig reach the top flight in just 7 years after their creation. Leipzig would even qualify for the UEFA Champions League in 2016 and beyond. The unfairness of this was pretty obvious, with the main caveat being that not every club had the backing of a company the size of Red Bull. It is impossible to overstate the advantage that RB Leipzig held during their rise to the Bundesliga. RB Leipzig had enough money to build top notch academies, renovate a whole stadium and rebrand it as their own, and qualify for their first ever major European competition all within 7 years.

To put in perspective how different RB Leipzig is compared to the rest of the Bundesliga, fellow Bundesliga competitor SC Freiburg has a local e-bike company named JobRad as its main shirt sponsor. It’s a direct contrast to the giant that is Red Bull, with SC Freiburg having a relatively small and local sponsor compared to Leipzig. SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig would meet in a “David v. Goliath” sort of story when they faced each other in the 2022 DFB-Pokal, a yearly knockout style competition within Germany. Both sides met in the final of the DFB-Pokal, with it being Freiburg’s first (and likely only) chance to win a major trophy. Sadly for Freiburg however, RB Leipzig’s superior and well funded squad of youngsters would beat them 2-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. The win marked RB Leipzig’s first ever major domestic trophy.

Red Bull was always working overtime when it came to acquiring teams, RB Leipzig is just the most well known example. Red Bull bought MLS club New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 2006, immediately rebranding it to simply the New York Red Bulls. Red Bull also bought Brazilian Serie B club Bragantino in 2019, with Bragantino having instantaneous success. Bragantino was promoted to Brazil’s top flight in the Serie A only one season after acquisition. Immediately after their promotion, Red Bull rebranded the club to Red Bull Bragantino the following season. Bragantino has also managed to qualify for the Copa Libertadores, with it being South America’s version of the UEFA Champions League.  Red Bull also had intentions to acquire Danish Superliga club Brøndby IF, but were forced to back down after fan backlash.

Out of every club to be acquired by Red Bull, SV Austria Salzburg suffered the worst fate.  SV Austria Salzburg was a football club founded all the way back in 1933, with it being one of the oldest clubs in Austria’s version of the Bundesliga. SV Austria Salzburg had a rich history prior to them being bought out, with them managing to reach the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) final in 1994. They would lose to Internazionale Milan in the final, but it is still commended as their greatest achievement in their history. Red Bull bought the club in 2005 after Salzburg struggled with financial issues, immediately rebranding it. SV Austria Salzburg would become simply Red Bull Salzburg, with its 1994 glory run in Europe only being a minor footnote on the club website. The official club website mentions very little about SV Austria Salzburg, as if they’re trying to hide its predecessor. Red Bull Salzburg’s website is flooded with achievements relating to the present day, yet contains little to no information on their predecessor. 

Red Bull have expanded themselves all over the world, and is a sign of what could happen within the coming decades. Companies buying out football clubs, rebranding themselves, and removing all the history that came with them. Other examples of this method have already begun to appear, with the City Football Group taking over clubs across the world and turning them into title contenders. Girona FC was acquired by the City Football Group and are already fighting for the La Liga title against the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is an awfully similar parallel to RB Leipzig. Red Bull has caused an unstoppable chain reaction, with companies slowly taking control of clubs year by year.

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