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Maria Balabanova spent most of her internship with Red Bull in Moscow on pre-press for a single event: the June 29, 2010 Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour against the backdrop of 16th century St. Basil’s Cathedral. The international event combined the bullfighting tradition with the extreme sport of freestyle motocross and featured world-class riders such as: Andre Villa (NOR), Nate Adams (USA), and Levi Sherwood (NZL).
Renowned for its aggressive marketing campaigns, Red Bull gave Balabanova a summer learning experience that complemented her dual academic majors in International Business and Accounting. She landed a 3-month internship with Red Bull’s Area Marketing Field Manager.
“Essentially, my job started before the X-Fighters got here with five weeks of pre-activation activities,” says Balabanova. This included tracking the distribution of posters, banners, stickers, photo booths and free samples to universities in eight marketing regions. “Russia is the largest country in the world,” she notes. “I would track each region’s marketing efforts using Excel and then present my findings using PowerPoint.”
According to Balabanova, Red Bull as an energy drink holds 44% of the market. “It works,” she says, “and the Moscow marketing staff was very, very passionate about the product.” Red Bull, founded by Thai national Chaleo Yoovidhya and Austrian national Dietrich Mateschitz, enter the energy drink market in 1997 via California. In 2008, Forbes magazine listed both founders as being the 260th richest persons in the world with an estimated net worth of $4.0 billion.
Consider the magnitude of Red Bull’s marketing effort. The X-Fighters toured through Mexico City, Giza, Moscow, Madrid, Ascot, and Rome. In Moscow alone, over 500 tons of sand had to be dumped in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral to develop the motocross. “We had 2 days to build it and 2 days to clean it up,” Balabanova says. “It was an incredible venue and over 30,000 people attended the event.”
Balabanova’s two other assignments for Red Bull were equally demanding. She was asked to compare a 2010 Red Bull survey of approximately 4,000 energy drink users against the results of the 2009 survey and create a dynamics report of the findings. “I had to work with two, huge PowerPoint presentations with over 200 slides each, and believe me, it wasn’t easy.”
Balabanova, who holds both Canadian and Russian citizenships, choose Nichols for its business curriculum and because she felt she would be treated as an individual at the small, friendly campus. Of course, it didn’t hurt that her mother liked the campus and Head Tennis Coach Paul Brower, who had promised that he would look after her daughter.
Lucky for Nichols: Balabanova has been captain of the Nichols women’s tennis team for the last two years. In October, Nichols Women’s Tennis won its first-ever The Commonwealth Conference Championship and finished the fall campaign with a 16-1 record, tying the program’s record for most wins in a season.
“Maria has incredible determination on the court and is a great role model for our younger athletes,” says Coach Brower. “It has been a privilege to watch her evolve from a quiet freshman to a mature, campus leader capable of bringing a worldly perspective to her business coursework.”
Next semester, Balabanova is planning to take the LSATS for law school on her birthday, February 12th, because she believes the day will bring her luck. She believes a law degree is professionally versatile and a good fit because she loves to solve problems, negotiate compromises and advocate on behalf of people. “I’m ready for my next challenge.”