Whether you watch HBO's mega-hit Game of Thrones (GOT) or just marvel at its popularity from afar there's no denying the massive hype that surrounds the show, now in it's eighth and final season.
Accordingly, as the long-awaited season 8 premiere aired in mid-April with 17.4 Million viewers tuning in, big brands and small advertisers alike jumped on the GOT bandwagon to capitalize on this pop-culture phenomenon.
In the two weeks leading up to the premiere (April 1st - April 13th) we counted nearly 130 advertisers utilizing Game Of Thrones-inspired creatives. From the no-brainers like HBO's own advertisements, on-demand streaming options like Hulu and the DirecTV app to innovative campaigns from The American Red Cross and Lovepop Greeting Cards, brands across over 15 categories include a nod to the show or it's characters.
The "other" category includes Gifts & Occasions, Hobbies & Interests, Financial Services, Software, and Auto.
Advertisers overwhelmingly focused their ad efforts on desktop and Facebook, with 80 brands pushing out GOT imagery either only on Facebook, or utilizing a combination of Facebook with desktop or mobile display. Creatives were overwhelmingly focused on display as opposed to video, likely due to the high costs and production content of video with only a short window for impact.
Here's a look at the most unique, most unlikely, and most innovative GOT-related digital ad campaigns leading up the April 14th premier.
Mountain Dew #ACanHasNoName Campaign
If you're asking us, Mountain Dew certainly wins the award for most creative Game of Thrones advertising, and for most impressive cameos.
In their Game of Thrones video, advertised to the tune of $35k on Facebook and over $100k on desktop, features an all-star cast of musicians and athletes singing along to the GOT theme song, complete with GOT-themed costumes and their very own Iron Throne.
In addition to the video, their #ACanHasNoName campaign giveaway was advertised across Facebook, desktop, and mobile, offering a chance to win a limited edition Game of Thrones Mountain Dew can.
Adidas x Game of Thrones
From soda to athleisure, Adidas joined the GOT party with an official partnership, Adidas x Game of Thrones, taking their popular Ultraboost shoe and releasing new colors #ForTheThrone. Focusing the majority of their campaign on Facebook, the brand released red and gold House Lannister and silver and white House Targaryan limited edition styles.
To promote the partnership Adidas broke from their usual link post and video post Facebook ads, using primarily carousel ads to advertise the new shoes along with other seasonal releases.
Creatives for the shoe stayed true to the Adidas brand. Unlike many other Thrones-related ads, this partnership was promoted with subtle messaging in the text of the creatives as opposed to in-your-face iconic GOT imagery.
The American National Red Cross Bleed #ForTheThrone Campaign
Even The Red Cross got in the Game of Thrones spirit, releasing a Bleed for the Throne campaign on Facebook, where the nonprofit does 100 percent of its advertising.
In a break from it's usual all-business tone, the Red Cross partnered with HBO to kick off its Bleed #ForTheThrone campaign, aptly named to encourage blood donations in exchange for the chance to win your very own Iron Throne.
We know what you're thinking (we thought it too)--does anyone actually want to own an Iron Throne? According to The Red Cross, yes--they do--especially males in Hartford, CT and Chicago, IL, where the largest majority of the nonprofit's over $150,000 of Facebook advertising for this campaign was targeted. Do they know something we don't? It's quite possible.
Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Game (Youzu Interactive)
Last month game developer Yoozoo Games (Youzu Interactive) teamed up with HBO to announce the Game of Thrones Winter is Coming Game, a browser game that immerses fans in the world of Game of Thrones, to--you guessed it--battle for the Seven Kingdoms.
As the leader in desktop display creatives among all the GOT ads, Pathmatics data showed over 1,400 creatives for the game, with over 1,300 of these on desktop display. The gaming brand pulled an impressive 194.6 million impressions for a spend of less than $700k during these two weeks.
This is a higher number of creatives than we saw from any other advertiser, including HBO, which logged only 110 creatives during the same period. Luckily for HBO, Youzu's creatives, which utilize high-resolution photos of many GOT main characters, in some ways serve double duty as an ad for both the game and the show, tempting even the non-gamers among us to try the game just to snag a few more hours with some of our favorite characters.
With the last season of the Game of Thrones series quickly drawing to a close we're not at all surprised to see so many brands eager to capitalize on the last few months of GOT hype. And while It's clear that each of these brands had different budgets and strategies for incorporating the show into their digital plans, they all seem to agree on one thing: When it comes to advertising, major cultural phenomenons, like Game of Thrones, are a winning bet.
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With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.