By Ann-Christine Diaz and Max Sternlicht
At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Ad Age sat down with and Alex Diamond, HBO’s director of consumer marketing, and Andy Ferguson, group creative director at Droga5, to learn more about the expansive “Game of Thrones” #FortheThrone campaign that kicked off the final season of the popular show—and which is shortlisted for a Titanium Lion at Cannes this week.
The campaign comprised partnerships with other brands such as Bud Light, Red Cross and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as collaborations with agencies, including Wieden & Kennedy, Giant Spoon and 360i. It asked both fans and brands, what would they be willing to do “for the throne?” Bud Light, for example, was willing to sacrifice its mascot Bud Knight on advertising’s biggest day of the year, the Super Bowl, while fans showed they were willing to “bleed for the throne” in a blood donation tie-up with the Red Cross.
Diamond explains that a lot of thought went into those partnerships. “We knew people were going to be trading on our cultural currency, for us this was about being a part of the conversation and extending an arm to these different brands and saying, ‘Hey we’ll play alongside you guys, but here’s what you have to do. You’ll have to do something that you’ve never done before that you’ll arguably never do again and you’ll do it because of your love of the show.’ That’s really where the #FortheThrone brief was able to flex across all these different verticals, for all these different brands. If you’re a fan of the show, you can do something audacious.”
The most audacious of all, arguably, was Bud Light’s Super Bowl sacrifice. Ferguson says that it all started when the agency came up with the idea, “What if, in the middle of the Super Bowl, we gave the most iconic spot a ‘Game of Thrones’ ending?” They then considered which are the biggest Super Bowl brands and Bud Light rose to the top. “They’ve been an iconic Super Bowl brand for decades,” he says. “It’s a perfect synergy with the fact they’ve got a medieval world. We can do a spot with them and no one would see it coming. We basically wrote a script and pitched it to them and said, ‘Look, we want to kill the Bud knight, in quite a gruesome way and we want to end with the ‘Game of Thrones’ logo, not the Bud Light logo, otherwise we could go to the next people along; it could have been Burger King, it could have been Coca-Cola.’ Amazingly, they said yes and were really up with it.”
That led to a collaboration with Bud Light’s agency, Wieden & Kennedy, “which was crazy in itself,” Ferguson adds.
This article has been published in collaboration with Adage.com