Richard Ayers

It’s the day after the night before. Game of Thrones has been littered across the internet and a large number of sports organisations, as well as every other entertainment property in the world, have thought about or delivered Game of Thrones referenced material.

Ajax, the ATP, Formula One… many of them feature The Iron Throne, some of them feature other aspects of the show. Most of them reference ‘something is coming’.

The question is why and is it worth it?

On the face of it, sports organisations have given HBO phenomenal amounts of value. I thought about working out the exact value of that coverage but the reality is that the calculation would be immense. Let’s just say that there has been an awful lot of free promotion for this television programme.

The next question is to what extent there has been a value exchange between entertainment properties? Of course that will then be a question of who their respective audiences are.

There are some voices in The Seven League office who think that the crossover between a sports fan and a Game of Thrones fan is not as large as everybody might think.

Our question would be how much research has been done on that? To what extent has each individual sports organisation analysed its audience and worked out what the crossover is?

Of course, in order to work that out you would need to know who your target audience is, as well understanding your existing customer data sufficiently to extrapolate consumption habits and whether or not and to what extent particular segments might be Game of Thrones fans.

Sadly, in our experience most organisations in sport are nowhere near this level of intimate understanding. Things are a lot better than they were a couple of years ago, but there is still a long way to go.

Of course frequently, content and editorial teams feel like they “should just do it” because it’s culturally relevant and keeps them hip with the kids, not isolated, connecting with audiences in a way that means something to them.

But as the man who came up with doing an Oscars-related show for Manchester City back in 2011, and then later that year something to do with Wimbledon, branching out from the isolation of sport only talking about its own sport… I have to question creatively whether just jumping on a bandwagon is really worth it. To what degree are you getting any cut through? How much are you really differentiating yourself if everyone in the world is also doing Game of Thrones content?

The only context in which I think it does make sense to do something is where you are doing it really well and where it brings you more value than simply aligning with a moment of pop culture. In a brief scout of what was coming through my feed yesterday, I would say the best piece of content I saw was the work done by UEFA:

I should hasten to add at this point that although we have been working with UEFA for many years and hope to do so for many more, this actually has nothing to do with us!

But the creative is absolutely bang on. The Euros are coming next year, they are based across 12 cities, it’s perfectly placed for a map and the animation style is intimate and intricate. It must have cost a pretty penny, and at 2 minutes 30 it is too long, but nonetheless it is very nicely attuned to the mode and, most importantly, adapts the Game of Thrones message for its own purposes.

This is not jumping on the back of something just ‘because you can’, this is using the momentum of a cultural moment and the marketing money of HBO in order to promote and market a competition which is still 14 months away and not on most people’s radar.

20th Century Fox have a deal with Manchester United where they use the brand value to promote their films. In most cases where Game of Thrones has been used in the last 48 hours, the sports organisations have given away their own value for the purpose of very little except being culturally timely and having some kind of cool halo effect.

If it didn’t take your social media team very long, then the chances are it wasn’t very good or very valuable. So the key is all about planning. Planning, planning, planning. Do the research, understand your audience, look into the future and work out what is coming three months, six months, nine months down the line and then get something commissioned which has more than just a bit of cool, but real business value.

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Categories: Digital