Red Bull’s YouTube channel has 2.5 million subscribers.  Their video of Felix Baumgartner’s freefall to Earth from space, all while decked out in a Red Bull branded space suit, has 34 million views.  It’s not a fluke.  Red Bull’s other videos containing authentic content – read not obviously an ad – regularly pass the 10 million views mark.

Now YouTube is teaching other companies how to get in on the act. The company recently announced its Partner Program, inviting American Express, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo to learn directly from YouTube how they can leverage the platform for their brands.  The program includes training workshops, a dedicated YouTube manager, data and tools that will help the companies involved learn how to use YouTube to create real, substantive content that audiences want to watch.  In the era of Tivo and DVR, only the best TV spots can make a significant pop culture impact, with audiences seeking them out on the Internet.  Unique content that doubles as an ad may be a way around this shift in audience attention.

 Though YouTube extended its Partner Program to only four brands initially, the program is expected to expand to 100 or more brand partners by the end of the year. Even if a company does not think YouTube is a good fit for their marketing strategy, everyone should take note of Red Bull’s success.  Audiences want unique, interesting content – and they undoubtedly know they are being marketed to.  If the content is good, they won’t care.