As soon as The Mountain appeared on screen, we all knew this was no ordinary Dilly-Dilly.
The killer Game of Thrones character first crushed the Bud Light Knight in a joust, then a dragon who appears to be Drogon from the HBO show pulls off a “hold my beer” moment by swooping in and incinerating the whole place. It may just be the most elaborate brand partnership ever done on advertising’s biggest stage.
It all started when HBO and its agency Droga5 started thinking about ways to promote the show’s eighth and final season. They decided to call up Bud Light and its agency Wieden+Kennedy New York. Agency creative director Jono Paull says Game of Thrones characters have gone to great lengths to protect or take over the throne, so as the final season approaches, HBO had one question: How far would fans–even other brands–be willing to go to prove their devotion? “For Bud Light, that meant letting us do something that only Game of Thrones can do–a public execution of their main character,” says Paull.
According to Salesforce’s annual Super Bowl report, Bud Light was the most mentioned advertiser across social media during the Super Bowl, and #ForTheThrone was a Top 5 hashtag. The spot was directed by David Nutter, who also helmed Game of Thrones’s infamous “Red Wedding” episode, while show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff also contributed.
HBO’s executive vice president of program marketing Zach Enterlin says asking another brand to prove their fandom during the Super Bowl felt like the perfect example of what the #ForTheThrone campaign represents. “We knew we wanted to do something unique and special to celebrate the final season of Game of Thrones, and needed a partner who would embrace a Game of Thrones-style ending and sacrifice a character for the throne. Bud Light felt like a natural fit, and they jumped at the opportunity.”
While it may be a Super Bowl first, major brand advertising collaboration isn’t new. Back in 2015, Activision teamed with Carl’s Jr. on an ad for the “Ultimate Care Package,” a Call of Duty: Black Ops III combo meal, named as a nod to the dropped aid players receive in the game. (Activision and Carl’s shared an agency: 72andSunny.) It’s the rising-tide-raises-all-boats approach to advertising, aiming to tap into fan crossover for mutual brand benefit.
As with any great Game of Thrones scene, this isn’t the end of HBO’s brand collaboration. Expect the #ForTheThrone campaign to deliver a few more branded surprises as the final season approaches.