In October 2019, as a number of companies found themselves under fire over comments about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a video supposedly showing a cartoon advertisement for the energy drink Red Bull went viral, along with the claim that the company had released it to show its support for civilian protesters there:
While Red Bull has previously released similar advertisements in at least two other languages, we were unable to find any evidence that the Hong Kong version is an official Red Bull advertisement, or that it was recently released in explicit support of the protests in Hong Kong.
The Red Bull “freedom” advertisement has been released in a variety of languages over the years. The earliest version appears to have been released in Germany in 2016. When a Romanian version was released the following year, the website Paginademedia reported that the ad had been created by Kastner & Partners, a German agency that has been working with Red Bull since 1985, and that it was later “adapted” into Romanian. The biggest difference between these two versions (as well as subsequent versions in other languages) can be seen in the final flag as it flies over the heads of riot police. In German, the flag is adorned with the word “freiheit.” In Romania, the flag read “libertate.” In Portuguese, it read “liberdade.” These words can be translated to “freedom”:
While we’ve come across several versions of this advertisement in other languages, we’ve only been able to confirm that Red Bull was officially connected to the Portuguese and German versions. The Portuguese version is still on the company’s website. The fact-checking project at the University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with Asian Network of News & Information Educators (ANNIE), found a print version of the German advertisement displayed in a gallery at Red Bull’s Hangar 7 at the Salzburg Airport in Austria.
Although it seems possible that Red Bull was behind the versions of this advertisement for Italy, Romania, and Hong Kong, we haven’t been able to find versions of those videos on any official Red Bull property. Some of these edits may have been made by people unaffiliated with the company in order to support a local protest.
Furthermore, the Hong Kong version of this ad that went viral in October 2019 did not originate with a post from an official Red Bull account. It does not appear on Red Bull’s Hong Kong website nor on the brand’s Hong Kong-based social media accounts. If this advertisement is truly an official Red Bull ad, it’s likely that it was created circa 2016 and is unrelated to the current protests in Hong Kong.
We reached out to Red Bull for comment but did not hear back by press time.