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Mikee

Are red bull athletes immoral?

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I was having a conversation with a MTBing friend about red bull hardline earlier, which then turned into a conversation about red bull and the athletes. This friend of mine used to drink a red bull almost daily (sometimes more) and was hospitalised with an irregular heart rhythm. The doctor blamed it on the red bulls and said that it’s quite a common occurrence with young people. He since stopped drinking them and has been fine ever since.

Consiering how bad red bull is for people’s health (and all other energy drinks), are athletes who have a partnership with them immoral?

 

 

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Probably, then again I don't blame them for taking the kind of money they pay out. A lot of proper athletes will be at press conferences drinking water from a Monster Energy can, they just want the logo out there, people who really wanna get the most out of their body aren't gonna drink that shit. If someone's stupid enough to think energy drinks are good for them, especially with all the info available out there, then they probably need some heart problems.

These companies aren't stupid! Take the money, give away all the free drinks! 

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There is a valid argument to this, but "immoral" is a strong word. I personally think it's important to use terms of an appropriate strength otherwise we lose points of reference. (If everything with a less than neutral effect on your body gets the headline "Substance X will kill you!" then we need a separate term for the category of things that genuinely will . Read: sugar versus cyanide. Both true, but very different.) I understand why we have clickbait, but if you extrapolate from where we were to where we are now, Orwell's vision of NewSpeak doesn't seem so outlandish any more.

 

It's definitely an ethical grey area, but I'd say they're doing less damage overall than the far, far greater number of amateur, semi- and pro riders that send out the image that it's Ok to ride with no helmet.
I have no statistics, but I'd put money on more extreme sports hospital cases being due to unprotected head injuries than excess caffeine/sugar.

The really upsetting question that I definitely don't like thinking about because I love watching them is whether high level riders publishing videos or photo's is damaging in itself.
If it's possibly the riders' fault that some kid they've never met is pounding four Monsters a day (something anyone living in the modern era unquestionably understands as "a bad thing") and gets hospitalised, it's far more their fault for every rider/skater/climber etc. for inspiring other people to try challenging things. If everyone lived in isolated bubbles where they'd never seen riding videos, they'd probably never have started riding, and if they did they definitely wouldn't push it to the extremes they do.
The bar is constantly raising with each generation of riders doing bigger/techer/harder things than the previous, so anyone watching these videos aspires to them. At some point the inevitable has to happen and they get injured.
Is it the pro riders' fault for putting out media that the masses try to emulate?
Yes, this is a slightly different scope of question, but it's related in that sometimes you have to trust the end user not to be a complete f**king moron.

 

Whether you actually do or not, outwardly giving the appearance of endorsing a harmful product is not a good thing, but if a prime role model (no smoking, law abiding, helmet wearing, drives an EV, donates 30% of their income to charity, is a heart surgeon in their spare time etc.) doesn't take it, the likelihood that some chain-smoking scumbag who's only in it for the money will get it instead.
In the capitalist society we have, it's a given that companies will exploit people being stupid. I drink them (increasingly little, but still do), so someone choosing not to won't remove the issue, but it will remove the availability of them earning a living from doing what they're good at.
Yes, it would be best if the best riders didn't have energy drink sponsors, but then where do you draw the line? If they're going to be sponsored... Practically every company has some bad aspects, whether that's exploiting child factory workers, or using an ethical workforce but still contributing to global warming, or even going to great lengths to be ethical and carbon neutral but then the CEO is misogynistic... (I jest, but yeah.) 

As with stoicism, the absolute perfect pro rider would be as good as they are and endorse no companies at all. Everyone unfortunate enough to actually exist can only strive to come as close to it as they can, forever doomed to fall short.

It's a very interesting question with no satisfying answers save cultural revolution :lol: 

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I do wonder if in the future we'll look back at using athletes to promote sugary drinks in the same way we look back on celebrities endorsing cigarettes. 

It's a very tricky one...I think Redbull are good at putting their profits back into cool events that might inspire more young (or old) people to take up a healthy hobby, does it justify the risks of a high caffeine drink addiction? I'm not sure.

I'm less impressed with other energy drink brands who seem to put less back, but they're also on the back foot and won't have as many people drinking their drinks...again a tricky one and I'm not sure how I feel about it, it can't be easy to turn down a sponsor like that if it came along!

I also suspect sugar has cause a substantial more hospital cases than the lack of helmets being worn in sports! 

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I understand and agree with your point. That said, I barely associate Red Bull with energy drinks these days, and mostly with extreme sports & events instead!

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I do wonder how many of the energy drink athletes are actually drinking the stuff.

I don’t think that athletes shouldn’t be able to have such sponsorship deals. But since athletes are generally associated with healthy lifestyles, I am simply questioning the ethics of it.

I believe people would see a sponsorship deal with red bull differently to Marlboro. But is there much of a difference? Obviously cigarettes are more addictive, but energy drinks can do serious damage very quickly. 

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1 hour ago, Ali C said:

I also suspect sugar has cause a substantial more hospital cases than the lack of helmets being worn in sports! 

To clarify, I was referring specifically to extreme-sports-people in hospital due to sugar vs extreme-sports-people in hospital due to lack of helmet, since that was the group of people in question.
Apologies if that wasn't clear.

 

42 minutes ago, Mikee said:

...since athletes are generally associated with healthy lifestyles, I am simply questioning the ethics of it.

I believe people would see a sponsorship deal with red bull differently to Marlboro. But is there much of a difference? Obviously cigarettes are more addictive, but energy drinks can do serious damage very quickly. 

First line: I think in any other circle of athlete that would probably be true, but I don't think extreme sports is quite the same.
The amount of top tier skaters and BMXers whom appear to glorify alcohol and various things sold to be inhaled (smoke or steam), takeaways... I feel like they're definitely less fussed about prime health than track/field athletes.
If they're not overly concerned about being healthy and certainly don't promote healthy lifestyles, I don't think it's the same. Still not good, but not the same.

Second line: definitely true, but one interesting point specifically about sugar; not absolute, but studies have found it in many cases more addictive than cocaine.

 

 

 

On a separate note, now that I've been thinking about this for a little bit, I've come to realise I don't associate the sponsor logos in videos with the product.
When Alex D put out that first video on Monster, I only thought in terms of the BMX scene now seeing him as being on that level. The prestige, if you will.

As other long-term riders rather than average members of the public, does this happen for you? Much like what Luke said, but I don't even get it with Monster, even though they don't do the things that Red Bull do.

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If anyone does decide to consume Red Bull/Monster or any other energy drink, please recycle the single use receptacle.

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@aener Just had a look at Red Bull athletes page and it includes athletes from disciplines such as running, triathlons, athletics, cricket, rowing, road cycling, fitness training, squash, swimming and hurdles. Just to name a few, quickly scrolling down the page. 

Yes, a lot of the athletes are from extreme sports, but a good chunk of those sports require the athlete to be at the top of their game with strength and fitness (enduro for example). Do these athletes endorse red bull? Or is it just a pay cheque?

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Keeping my marketing hat very firmly off:

I think the answer they’d give, quite rightly, is that drinking energy drinks is fine in moderation.

I like the odd Red Bull, but by that I probably mean 4 or 5 a year. They’re clearly not great for me, but I quite like the taste and sometimes it’s just a more refreshing caffeine hit when ‘needed’.

I don’t think that many if any of the athletes sponsored by Red Bull are sending out a message to drink them every day, so on the whole I don’t see it as immoral. I see it as a way to use a brand as a platform to help get themselves out to a wider audience, and in that sense it’s very much a two way street.

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45 minutes ago, Mikee said:

@aener Just had a look at Red Bull athletes page and it includes athletes from disciplines such as running, triathlons, athletics, cricket, rowing, road cycling, fitness training, squash, swimming and hurdles. Just to name a few, quickly scrolling down the page. 

Ooops. Really should've done my research first, I guess :lol: 

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What’s it take to qualify you as an athlete anyway? A social media account with a tag line? I don’t mean to pick on Ali, or anyone else for that matter, I think it’s a great thing that someone would aspire to have that status.

Guys like Kriss Kyle are very much adopting the athlete lifestyle these days. Many a Instagram story of Jogging and weight routines. Gone are the days of alchohol fueled Friday night Fight night!

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it's been a while since I set up my insta account, I don't class myself as an athlete but I think the options are limited when choosing.

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I think I consider an athlete as someone who spends the time other people are at work practising in their sport. Especially if it provides their income, and doubly so if they also actively engaging in competitions.

So:
I am a web developer who also rides. Not an athlete.
Josh Leech is a welder/fabricator who also rides. Not an athlete.
Your mate's dad is an accountant and plays Sunday league football. Not an athlete.

Professional footballers who don't have a part time job or whatever and is regular competition with other teams. Athletes.
Kriss Kyle, paid a salary (presumably) "to ride" and enters comps. Athlete.
Danny Hart, as above. Athlete.
Jack Carthy, as above. Athlete.

Danny Mac, I guess also gets a salary, but doesn't enter competitions and also earns money from shows etc. The fact that his income is derived from his sport puts him in the athlete category for me.
Ali - I think I'm saying that in my books you just about qualify as an athlete :lol: 

Supplementing income with another job doesn't make them not athletes - it's the proportion of time engaged in high-level practice that does it for me.
(Which raises the category of "rich kid who doesn't want a job and has the financial backing to be able to just ride all the time, but never gets that good". To me, not an athlete. I guess you require all of the above, and to also be of at least above-average ability in the sport. But it's still a grey term.)

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Red Bull sponsor these athletes and put on these events for one reason. To sell more drinks. The athletes may not be directly telling people to drink lots of red bull, but they increase red bull's perception with active, healthy living. Vast sums of money are paid to these people and to put on these events because it is very effective advertising. 

 

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But buying a drink is a personal choice. Sure, they might not have thought to if they didn't see a certain video or attend a certain event, but without Red Bull supporting them, a lot of the less socially accepted sports wouldn't be anywhere near where they are right now.

They're a bit like the Church. What they do provides platforms for good people to do good things, and growing communities and providing mindsets that let people feel good about themselves or more secure of their place in the world, but the way they support themselves is generally harmful to the people being helped by their outward appearance.

I'm not saying we should all start worshipping aluminium cans as a religious symbol, but I do think a reasonable parallel can be drawn.
Religion in moderation can manifest itself as a force for good, but fanatics are dangerous.
A can of Red Bull here and there will likely have no effect on the drinker, but in buying them they support the platform that presents them with something to enjoy or aspire to.

 

Oh man... I just realised I'm comparing one business to another business known for deluding people, thinking it was a bit of a stretch. But they tell people their drink will give you wings! What fun.
<Rusevelt mode>I wonder if 2019 will be the year we see the Crimson Bull logo appearing in the Vatican</Rusevelt mode>

Christians know this, and they don't like it: http://www.gracebfc.com/content.cfm?id=151&blog_id=4

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@aener I'm not disagreeing with you, but could you say that about any product/company? 

"But buying cigarettes is a personal choice. Sure, they might not have thought to if they didn't see a certain video or attend a certain event, but without Marlboro supporting them, a lot of the less socially accepted sports wouldn't be anywhere near where they are right now."

I know cigarettes have more of a stigma than energy drinks, but the principle is the same.

My concern is not with red bull and their right to advertise, but with the responsibility of role models, a lot of whom probably don't even drink the stuff at the request of their dietitians or coaches.

I think @Ali C made a good point about whether in the future energy drinks will be stigmatised, like cigarettes. Imagine today the reaction if half way through a biking video, the rider opened a pack of cigs and lit up, because their contract says they have to. That might be how people feel in 10 years about red bull.

Edited by Mikee

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10 minutes ago, Mikee said:

@aener I'm not disagreeing with you, but could you say that about any product/company? 

"But buying cigarettes is a personal choice. Sure, they might not have thought to if they didn't see a certain video or attend a certain event, but without Marlboro supporting them, a lot of the less socially accepted sports wouldn't be anywhere near where they are right now."

I know cigarettes have more of a stigma than energy drinks, but the principle is the same.

With Monster, it is the same, yes.

But no cigarette company hosts Rampage or all the various BMX events and all the other stuff they do.
When I said that, I wasn't meaning keeping various sportspeople able to ride full-time, I meant the hosting events etc.
(The difference between Tarty sponsoring a rider and putting on TartyDays... if the trials niche wasn't so useless that they chose to not take advantage of people doing nice things for them.)

 

The point of stigma, I agree it could happen and hope it does, but specifically in skating and BMX, clips of people skinning/sparking up isn't rare at all. It's never contractually demanded, but doing it of their own volition for "atmosphere" or editing purposes is potentially even worse.

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Interesting discussion...somthing I have thought about before. I think it is immoral (taking fizzy drink sponsorship) but that is in the context of many normal things we do being immoral (driving a car for example) so I'd say it is ethically dubious but I wouldn't judge anone for jumping at the chance of being paid to ride their bike.

A far better alternative to me would be for the riders to be sponsored by bike companies but I suppose Bike Trials is such a small sport that they just don't have the money. It does seem kind of absurd to me but that's life I guess.

Redbull even sponsor freediving events (breath hold diving). The caffine would be very bad for the diver's ability.

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1 hour ago, aener said:

With Monster, it is the same, yes.

But no cigarette company hosts Rampage or all the various BMX events and all the other stuff they do.
When I said that, I wasn't meaning keeping various sportspeople able to ride full-time, I meant the hosting events etc.
(The difference between Tarty sponsoring a rider and putting on TartyDays... if the trials niche wasn't so useless that they chose to not take advantage of people doing nice things for them.)

 

The point of stigma, I agree it could happen and hope it does, but specifically in skating and BMX, clips of people skinning/sparking up isn't rare at all. It's never contractually demanded, but doing it of their own volition for "atmosphere" or editing purposes is potentially even worse.

It was purely hypothetical, if Marlboro held such events.

I get your second point, but I think getting paid to promote something “negative” is worse then showing your “negative” lifestyle choices. Promotion vs art in a way.

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1 hour ago, Rebelistic said:

A far better alternative to me would be for the riders to be sponsored by bike companies but I suppose Bike Trials is such a small sport that they just don't have the money. It does seem kind of absurd to me but that's life I guess.

It's not just trials - Garrett Reynolds is one of the best BMXers in the world, and he only has one paying sponsor (Red Bull).  Other guys like Chad Kerley only have one paying BMX-specific sponsor, the bulk of his income comes from non-endemic sponsors.  Believe it's a similar story for Dennis Enarson too.  The majority of 'pro' BMXers are making virtually no money now, so without those alternative sponsors they'd be screwed.  The issue is that there are so many companies out there that each company is effectively getting a smaller slice of what is already a slightly smaller pie.  Factor in rising costs of parts but expectations for RRPs to be low and it makes it even worse.  Bearing in mind the order of magnitude trials is smaller than BMX, it's unsurprising there are only really probably 2 riders out there who are actually making a living from riding their bikes (in the sense they could do nothing but ride their bikes as they choose to and still make a living).  The same lack of money for companies is behind that too.

Semi-related to that, but a lot of the heavier drinking/smoking BMXers now have sponsors who make CBD-related products, natural supplements, etc.  There's been a pretty big shift over the past few years.  One formerly-pro BMXer stopped his riding career to start a juicing cafe when he got seriously into health-related stuff.

The morality thing depends what level you want to take it to as well.  Is someone buying a Red Bull better or worse than someone buying a pair of some BMXers signature shoes made with animal-based materials (e.g. suede), and soles that are glued on using some pretty nasty substances?  Is that better or worse than the gigantic carbon footprint created by the UCI MTB World Cups flying huge amounts of people all around the world to race down some tracks and hand out some meaningless baubles and jerseys?  What about e-bikes that use batteries that are reasonably environmentally damaging to create?

Speaking of energy drink sponsorship, this is laughably bad: 

 

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11 minutes ago, Mark W said:

The morality thing depends what level you want to take it to as well.  Is someone buying a Red Bull better or worse than someone buying a pair of some BMXers signature shoes made with animal-based materials (e.g. suede), and soles that are glued on using some pretty nasty substances?  Is that better or worse than the gigantic carbon footprint created by the UCI MTB World Cups flying huge amounts of people all around the world to race down some tracks and hand out some meaningless baubles and jerseys?  What about e-bikes that use batteries that are reasonably environmentally damaging to create?

Sport is generally associated with health and fitness, not animal welfare and the environment. So I think that’s a different matter.

 

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Health and the environment aren't linked?

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Not in the way that sport encourages 

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I don't really understand that statement...

A couple of semi-rhetorical questions more specifically related to Red Bull's involvement with trials - I know a few riders who got into trials because they got to have a go on a trials bike at the Red Bull Street Light Sessions.  Is them getting into trials worse than Red Bull bankrolling that event?  At what point does that balance tip?  How many riders need to get into riding trials having seen Imaginate or Epecuen to offset Red Bull's involvement?

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