Case: leveraging the potential of film for tourism and economic development.
Brian Twomey is Head of Marketing Communications at Tourism Ireland.
The award winning series Game of Thrones was shot in Northern Ireland. How did they manage to attract the film and how did they get the most out of the potential, once they were there?
They are called set jetters as distinct from jet setters. They are passionate about their favourite film or TV show and even when it has ended they have a deep rooted need to reconnect with it and often to visit the place where it was made or the land that inspired it. Reaching these fans in a meaningful and motivating way is neither the responsibility of the film production company or national tourist board so often the opportunity remains untapped or is an afterthought with little sustainable impact.
Establishing Northern Ireland as Game of Thrones Territory.
Many countries were involved in this epic production of Game of Thrones (GOT). Tourism Ireland was the only Tourist Board that negotiated a deal with HBO that enabled them to leverage this global phenomenon over five seasons to drive record visitor numbers to Northern Ireland. You could call it first mover advantage but Tourism Ireland secured the use of the GOT IP at no cost. This really anchored credibility in the eyes of their enormous fan base.
Creative cut through was the key to success.
First, Tourism Ireland had to convince HBO that they had a strong creative platform that reflected a deep understanding of the series’ fan base and would help fuel the overall GOT conversation. Initially, HBO saw no benefit in supporting the tourism agenda and all the work presented had to go through many layers of approval.
But as often is the case quality rises to the surface if you put work into it. The originality of their approach was fully endorsed. What others can learn, is that tourist boards by their nature are risk adverse and the journey they were on required courage and breaking with convention. Ultimately it was all about understanding GOT’s fanbase which was a completely new audience for Tourism Ireland. This required a very different tone of communication than is the norm for Tourism Advertising.
Sustaining relevance and building a legacy
It would have been very easy for Tourism Ireland to rest on their laurels and repeat their very successful campaign in year two. Instead, they raised the bar and inspired their creative teams to come up with five bespoke campaigns that surprised and delighted the fans of the show. This delivered over €80 m in earned media as well as contributing to ca 350 000 visitors to Northern Ireland in search of a GOT experience.
The show may be over but the fans keep on coming so it is critical that there are experiences on the ground to capture that Instagramable moment. For example, Tourism Ireland has contributed to this ecosystem by establishing the Door of Thrones and Glass of Thrones tour. Last but not least, they created 90 metre long GOT tapestry which to date has been viewed by over 300 000 visitors.
Brian will talk about leveraging the potential of film for tourism and economic development