It was one small tweet for a man, one giant marketing event for energy drink maker Red Bull: an apparently first-person account of how it feels to free-fall from the heavens and break the sound barrier, as Austrian Felix Baumgartner did this weekend.
Trouble is, Baumgartner tweeted no such thing following his record-breaking, Red Bull-sponsored leap from the edge of space on Sunday. In fact, Baumgartner said he felt nothing at all as he broke the sound barrier. Now the discrepancy has the blogosphere up in virtual arms.
“What’s the deal, Red Bull?” asked one commenter, 31ModelA, on one of the websites that posted the head-cam video from Baumgartner’s death-defying stunt.
“Too bad he said the complete opposite in the press conference,” tweeted Web Smith on the thread posted on the Twitter account of Red Bull Stratos, the name given to the leap from the edge of space.
A spokesman for the Red Bull event, Derrick Lerum, admitted that the tweet, “I could feel myself break the speed of sound. I could feel the air building up and then I hit it” posted on the Red Bull Stratos Twitter feed was not, in fact, authored by Baumgartner as it appeared.
“I’m not really sure where it came from,” Lerum said by telephone. “But I know he didn’t tweet it.”
Speaking at a news conference after breaking several records including the highest-ever parachute jump and the fastest unaided descent, Baumgartner stated clearly several times that he had no sensation of breaking the sound barrier.
“I didn’t feel it,” he said. “When you are wearing that pressure suit you don’t feel anything.”
A marketing expert quoted on the Forbes magazine website meanwhile guessed that its sponsorship of the stunt, watched live by around eight million people, was worth tens of millions of dollars to Red Bull in terms of global brand exposure.
“Red Bull Stratos will continue to be talked about and passed along socially for a very long time,” Forbes quoted Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a media marketing company, as saying.