Marketing where HBO’s Game of Thrones is Filmed: Tourism Ireland gets 8.6 Million Pounds Worth of Publicity for the Price of 200,000 Pounds

Example of an advertisement promoting tourism to the place where Game of Thrones is filmed
One example of the type of Game of Thrones’ themed marketing collateral Tourism Ireland has developed to promote travel to Northern Ireland. For fans of the series the message entices them to explore one or more of the parts of Northern Ireland that were used in the filming of the show to represent parts of the Game of Thrones world.

An interesting article in the Daily Mail Online discusses the significant positive impact that a Game of Thrones themed campaign launched by Tourism Ireland this year yielded. After gaining permission to use the name and logo for Game of Thrones from HBO, the network responsible for the fantasy television series, Tourism Ireland developed a campaign to promote travel to the parts of Northern Ireland that are used in the show to represent a number of the significant regions within the world of Westeros (the fictional world within Game of Thrones). Game of Thrones has become a worldwide phenomenon and HBO’s most popular series. Data from Nielsen indicates that episodes of the show that premiere on Sundays capture an average gross audience of 18.6 million viewers. The title had been previously held by the HBO hit The Sopranos with an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers.

For Tourism Ireland, marketing the locations in Northern Ireland where Game of Thrones is filmed has already led to some very desirable results since the campaign was launched during the months of April, May, and June. The campaign started on Facebook and Twitter and resulted in 100 million views online with over a million instances of people commenting, clicking, or sharing the different ads; all good examples of actions indicative of a higher level of viewer engagement.

The whole marketing campaign cost Tourism Ireland 200,000 pounds with the CEO of the organization, Niall Gibbons noting that “If we were to buy the publicity that would have cost us £8.6 million.” All of the comments, shares and likes generated by viewers of the ads most likely helped further spread the reach of the marketing campaign that was aimed at the tens of millions of fans of Game of Thrones. Delivering the ads to fans through either of these social media platforms probably wasn’t too challenging either; given that many fans of the show probably like or follow pages on both platforms directly affiliated with or related to Game of Thrones.

Tourism Ireland and HBO worked very closely on the development of the creative components of the campaign in order to ensure that the look, tone, and feel of each ad was well aligned with the Game of Thrones brand. For both Tourism Ireland and HBO, collaboration on this campaign represents a clear win-win scenario. Tourism Ireland is able to promote travel to iconic sights in Northern Ireland where different regions within the world of Game of Thrones were filmed resulting in new tourism dollars coming in to help stimulate the local economy. For HBO, being able to help promote unique and memorable experiences aligned with the show has the benefit of increasing the connection that fans who embark on this kind of experience have with the show. It’s also worth considering that it should help generate some good word of mouth marketing for the show by way of that same group of fans. If you went on a trip to Northern Ireland to visit the different sites within the world of Westeros wouldn’t you share your experience with your friends, family, and colleagues?

From a marketing management perspective here are some questions to consider:

  • As a marketing manager for HBO in charge of marketing initiatives for Game of Thrones what kind of input would you want to have in regards to the development of the ads created by Tourism Ireland?
  • Views, comments, likes, and shares are all nice indicators of performance for a marketing campaign, but the ultimate goal for Tourism Ireland in the case of this marketing campaign is to boost tourism to Ireland in the areas where Game of Thrones was filmed. As a marketing manager for Tourism Ireland what kinds of metrics would you use to provide direct evidence of the impact that this campaign is having in terms of driving tourism to sites within Northern Ireland and how would you seek to collect the information necessary to provide these metrics?