Visitors have the option to donate blood onsite, then are asked
to walk "in the shoes of those who have bled in seasons past"
through a set with an audio guide. Visitors then can sit in on a
pinning ceremony, which calls visitors up by name and asks for them
to kneel before a throne. Finally, visitors are led outside to a
"war camp," with actors portraying soldiers, a band playing and
burgers from Shake Shack.
HBO worked with Giant Spoon on the
installation. The two also put on the buzzworthy "Westworld" activation at South by Southwest last
year, which took visitors (including Elon Musk) to a ghost town
in the outskirts of town.
"For us, the strategy was exactly the same," says Steven
Cardwell, director of program marketing at HBO. "To mine the
authenticity of the show, and bring something to fans that they're
going to experience and feel a personal connection to."
The "Bleed for the Throne" activation is also part of the
broader "For the Throne" campaign HBO has been working on with
Giant Spoon co-founder Trevor Guthrie said their role for an
activation like this is "building worlds" that bring fans of a show
inside. To do that, the agency drills down on the
details—like writing a 27-minute original score for the choir
to sing, bringing in a dialect coach to help actors learn Dothraki
and shipping in costumes from Belfast.
The question remains: Will people bleed?
For Clifford Ira Numark, senior VP of donor recruitment and
field marketing at the American Red Cross Blood Services, it's
looking pretty good—saying there are already dozens of
stories of first-time donors who were compelled to sign up. The Red
Cross partnership extends beyond the South by Southwest activation,
with "Game of Thrones"-themed blood drives in 43 states.
Numark says this is the largest entertainment partnership Blood
Services has had.
"It's totally unique," he says. And it comes at the right time.
"Winter really is here. We've had hundreds of blood drives canceled
as a consequence of the winter weather."
He says 35,000 units of blood went uncollected because of
weather-related issues. HBO said Thursday night the campaign was on
track to collect more than 15,000 pints of blood donations on its
first day of nationwide drives.