Game of Thrones: Marketing to Millennials

Three words – Game of Thrones. What else would my post be about the day after the Season 6 premiere? But no spoilers here, guys. Instead of talking about last night’s episode, I’m delving into what you, as marketers, can learn from HBO’s promotion of this season.

From what I’ve read, HBO’s goal was to acquire more of the millennial audience. Anyone surprised? I’m not since that’s what we’re hearing from most brands these days. Now remember, I’m on the outside looking in, but here are my takeaways.

1.  Don’t fear change – just because HBO successfully promoted the last two seasons with mixtapes featuring big name musicians, there’s no need to repeat it a third year. Instead HBO decided to explore a different community that their fans were just as passionate about for promoting Season 6.

HBO’s SVP of Multicultural Marketing told Adweek, “the original intent was to really find what we felt were the cultural passion points that we could use to promote Game of Thrones and attract a younger, millennial audience. That’s always been the key.” So the network gave five rising artists free reign to recreate key scenes from the show’s past seasons, each in a different medium to bring the #ArtTheThrone campaign to life.


Art Show

Of course the art show was not the only part of the larger campaign. To deepen fan engagement and broaden the reach, HBO created behind the scenes videos of each artist discussing what inspired their work.

2.  Form the right alliances – aside from these rising artists, HBO built excitement around this season with the help of Spotify – a perfect pick for their millennial target audience. Most of you may remember last year’s NYC Uber rides where you got to sit on the iron throne, but this year’s buy taps into the everyday listening habits of a millennial. On Friday, Spotify and HBO launched a website called “With Whom Do You Listen” which will analyze your Spotify’s listening history then match you with a character from the show that fits with your tastes. Fans went nuts, sharing to social media, but this wasn’t the first time Spotify offered this type of buy. HBO took a page out of the Star War’s book.

With Whom do you Listen

Searching Kingdoms

All Men Must Serve3.  Have a battle plan – by that I mean a channel strategy. HBO used each of its social channels differently to tease the new season. Twitter was by far the most active with their updates to the wall of faces late February, causing quite a stir with fans. Leading up to the premiere, HBO’s Twitter asked fans to share their favorite GoT GIFs and answer fun fill-in-the-blank questions. While HBO used Facebook as the hub to promote all their efforts from Spotify to the art campaign, including hosting Facebook Live as part of their LA premiere.


If you’re a true Game of Thrones fan, as well as a marketer, be sure to check ALL of these out. There’s so much to learn from what a premium network can do with a couple million in ad spend (just a guess). And for those of you who decided to hold your couch time, good luck – I hope no one spoils your day!

Photo credits: HBO, Adweek and Tech Insider

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