#ForTheThrone

If you had no idea what this blog post was going to be about based on its title, I understand. Game of Thrones is not for everyone. However, if you’ve never heard of the thrilling fantasy drama television series that is HBO’s Game of Thrones, you definitely live under a rock. And even if this show is not necessarily your cup of tea, I kindly urge you to keep reading, as I promise to offer an enlightening perspective as to how and why Game of Thrones has quickly become America’s most beloved television series (or at least by the looks of social media).

I was inspired for the topic of this post after reading a Wall Street Journal article this past week about the success of Bud Light’s most recent Superbowl commercial, which was regarded as “one of the boldest marketing tie-ins ever orchestrated” for heavily featuring both characters and events from Game of Thrones. With its market share slowly declining in recent years due to a slowdown in overall alcohol consumption in the United States, Bud Light decided to take a risk in the hopes of benefitting from GOT’s cult like following. On the other hand, GOT producers chose to invest in the ad in the hopes of eternally maximizing HBO viewership, as the upcoming season of GOT will be its last, and the network has discovered that fans of GOT are more likely to sample other HBO series.

Although the article I read (which was titled “‘Game of Thrones’ Hijacks Bud Light’s Super Bowl Ad to Pump Its Return”) details the ‘bold’ and ‘risky’ decisions made by Bud Light in the months leading up to the ad’s debut, I am a strong proponent of an alternate viewpoint. I do not believe that this choice in crossover was as dauntless or intrepid as it is being made out to be by the Wall Street Journal. In fact, given the proven ability of Game of Thrones to successfully build public interest via social media, I think it was a perfectly calculated maneuver.

First of all, in 2017 Game of Thrones generated more social interactions on average than any other television show by far. The series averaged over 2.5 million interactions per episode. The show has its own Twitter handle with over 7 million followers, a Facebook page with over 22 million likes, and YouTube channel with over 3 million subscribers. Thus, Bud Light could have easily anticipated that the 2019 Superbowl ad that it created would generate the most tweets per minute out of any other ad throughout the event (which it did).

One key tactic used by the makers of GOT to promote engagement on Twitter is the use of interactive hashtags. In 2013, #RoastJoffrey was created to fire up fans, celebrities, and brand accounts over one of the show’s most detested characters in between the airings of seasons three and four. After season four ended in 2014, #TaketheThrone was used to generate interactions by offering fans various prizes such as the opportunity to take a seat on the Iron Throne and Comic Con. More recently, HBO invented #PrepareforWinter to trigger hype for season seven in 2017. This hashtag asked viewers to relive and tweet their favorite moments from past seasons, allowing the best to be retweeted by the official @GameOfThrones handle itself. Next, #ForTheThrone has already begun to take over to market season eight.

HBO has strategically built the GOT franchise for its episode premieres to become cultural events. Each season consists of merely 10 episodes, so every one is highly anticipated by viewers. Furthermore, audiences not only tune into HBO when these episodes air, but onto social media as well. The official GOT Twitter page promotes live tweets with fans and celebrity cast members alike, even offering real-time question and answer sessions on multiple occasions. This allows fans to bond with one another over what angers and/or excites them throughout the show’s ever-twisting plot line. As one might expect, the most action occurs during the premieres and finales of each season.

As the eighth and final season approaches, it would only be natural for Bud Light to try to hop on the Game of Thrones marketing bandwagon, especially with the foregoing success of the brand’s ‘Dilly Dilly’ advertisements, which were also inspired by GOT but on a much subtler scale. Red Bull, Spotify, Clorox, and even Sesame Street are just a few of the brands that have also aimed to capitalize on the broad and loyal fan base warranted by GOT in the past. Now, anything in the media that references medieval times is immediately perceived as alluding to a partnership with Game of Thrones, which makes people stop and look. That is not to say that if Bud Light had chosen to base their ad off of the adventures of a 3-month-old golden retriever puppy that people wouldn’t stop and look, but given the cultural influence that GOT has clearly demonstrated on social media in the past, producers definitely knew what they were doing.

9 comments

  1. I was finally convinced to start GOT recently in hopes of catching up before season 8 premieres and love it! I agree, why would Bud Light not take the opportunity to partner with one of the most important upcoming events for television and social media. I liked that that they took a step away from the usual puppy commercial to stand out from both other ads for beer and all ads in general. At the super bowl party I was at the ad definitely garnered attention with people screaming in excitement for the return of GOT. While bud light may have been overshadowed by the GOT logo, I think there is a definite overlap of users of both brands and the partnership seemed like a success on both ends.

  2. I loved, loved, loved the Bud Light tie in. I suspect that this semester will forever be remembered as the #GOT semester as the hype ramps up as April approaches.

  3. I was very surprised to read about Red Bull, Spotify, Clorox, and Sesame Street using GOT connections in their advertising. When it came out that that was the most popular ad from the Super Bowl this year i wasn’t surprised that Bud Light secured the top spot, but I was surprised that that many people appreciated the GOT tie in. Interesting statistics you added in as well! Thanks for posting.

  4. I finally decided to give Game of Thrones a try over Christmas and after watching a couple of episodes, I was absolutely hooked! I am almost fully caught up (it is a serious commitment on top of working and going to school!), so I fully appreciated and loved seeing this commercial. Similar to Emma’s comment above, the ad definitely elicited a loud response from the group of friends I was watching with and got everyone talking about how excited they were for the upcoming season. I think it was a smart decision by both Bud Light and the GOT production team to tie the show into a commercial that is always highly anticipated (at least, in my circle of friends), and clearly the social media statistics prove that it was worth it.

  5. I think Bud Light was really smart to team up with GOT for the Super Bowl. It felt like their medieval themed commercials and “Dilly Dilly!” slogan for the past few years finally had an “aha” moment, and it was really cool how to see how the advertisement worked so well to benefit both parties. I also think it’s interesting how you mention whenever any brand alludes to medieval times our instinct is to think “Game of Thrones”. It goes to show how social media can help transform a small franchise into the icon behind an entire historical time period.

  6. I’ve always been amazed by how much talk GOT generates, both online and in-person. When my friends convinced me to start watching back around season 3, their main point was that I would be left out of every casual conversation if I wasn’t caught up by the premiere of season 4. I think the series’ shocking, twisted, jaw-dropping nature makes it a natural superstar, but HBO has done an amazing job building on that through social media, as you described. I’m actually more surprised that GOT wold agree to partner with Bud Light than I am that Bud Light would want to partner with GOT. GOT probably doesn’t need the publicity and it does already have a partnership with Johnnie Walker, which is a bit of a different brand than Bud Light. I guess HBO might as well milk the franchise while it still can, but it definitely seems like they did Bud Light a favor!

  7. For me, the Bud Light commercial during the Super Bowl was one of the more memorable ones and the Game of Thrones tie in definitely had a lot to do with that. GOT has created such a boom through not only the show itself but through the use of social media, that Bud Light choosing to work with them to create an ad seems like a no-brainer. I feel like people would have enjoyed the ad regardless of the GOT tie-in, but it definitely helped to make it all the more memorable.

  8. This post spoke to me. I myself am a GOT fanatic, but one that arrived relatively late to the game. It was hard not to get sucked into the frenzy because of the cult like following they’ve gained, it truly is a cultural phenomenon. Twitter and social media play such a large part in their success, and it’s one of the reasons I started to follow the show. The Red Wedding seemed like a national tragedy on twitter and I couldn’t understand how a show could garner such a visceral reaction literally across the whole internet. I agree with you, Bud light’s leveraging of such a dedicated audience seems like the perfect move. Just seeing the GOT characters and imagery on screen gets me excited and I can’t help but connect those emotions with Bud Light when they’re on screen together. I thought it was a brilliant commercial, and really enjoyed your commentary. Now all we can do is wait for the last season!

  9. I thought that the Bud Light – GoT crossover was a fantastic marketing device. But to play devil’s advocate here: I thought that the ad made me respect the show a little less. When I watch the show, I put my phone on silent and block out any distractions so that I can fall into the world of Westeros. I love that GoT is an HBO show because there are no ads during the episode to break me out of the experience. However, while I thought this ad was funny and effective, I thought it took away from a show which typically takes itself very seriously.

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