I definitely downed a few RedBulls between 2002-2014, but I won’t be asking for ten bucks from the company, which announced last week that it was settling a lawsuit for $13 million by giving away free cash and energy drinks to anybody who had bought a RedBull during that time.
The class action lawsuit alleged that RedBull didn’t really give you wings, as its commercials advertised. More specifically, the suit asserted that contrary to the company’s marketing claims, drinking a RedBull didn’t do anything more for somebody than drinking a cup of coffee.
Speaking of coffee – is this the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit of our generation?
Actually, I would say it’s worse, because a woman was actually seriously injured when she spilled a scalding cup of joe between her legs. Some guy out there (i.e. Benjamin Careathers, the main plaintiff) habitually downs caffeinated beverages and wonders why he’s not getting that sudden “jolt” of performance he was hoping for? All of a sudden he’s an injured party and needs to be made whole?
The settlement included an additional $4.75 million to cover attorney’s fees according to Law360, making the total payout nearly $18 million for Austria-based RedBull. Clearly, the company thought it had something to lose by going to court – although as a general matter I wish companies would not settle so easily and instead make the opposition beat them in court. Energy drinks have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, so maybe it’s not a shock that something like this is happening now.
And maybe Careathers is right that RedBull’s advertising is misleading; that it oversold the benefits of its product. The problem with the lawsuit is – doesn’t every ad campaign do that?
I won’t be claiming my ten bucks from RedBull on the site they’ve set up to distribute the funds. Mostly because I don’t believe in the lawsuit, but secondarily, because they’re may not be much money left after the bonanza that was this story hit the net last week. Traffic to the settlement web page was so heavy that the site crashed, and the money will be divided by the number of people actually requesting the free money or product, meaning the payout could end up being just a few bucks per person when all is said and done. The $13 million figure does not even factor in the cost of administering the class action settlement, which is handled by a company which specializes in that sort of thing.
Who knows, with all the publicity RedBull is getting, and the public’s general interpretation of this suit (‘of course RedBull doesn’t give you wings!) this may be one of the most effective ad campaigns, dollar for dollar, the company has ever managed.