Why the Game of Thrones finale is a masterclass in creative brand partnerships

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As you may have heard, the final season of a little TV show called Game of Thrones just got underway. And as if the most talked about and merchandisable TV phenomenon of the last decade needed any more hype, the final six feature-length episodes are proving to be more of a brand-magnet than ever!

Game of Thrones has more than 100 licenses globally, making it the most licensed TV show of all time. But there’s something else. There’s something about this dragon/gore/boob/zombie combo that seems to makes the world’s agency creatives raise their game. It’s that same ‘something’ that caused our Content Director, Sean (right) to pull that silly face when he worked with GoT’s assassin on a mission, Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams) last year. Game of Thrones seems to drive marketing creatives gently insane.

And the results are amazing – here are some of the final season’s most innovative brand partnerships.

Mountain Dew – A Can Has No Name

Mountain Dew’s ‘A Can Has No Name’ can makeover is a near perfect marketing crossover. When it’s warm, the can is simply white and brandless. But when cold, it reveals Arya Stark’s kill list. This is (literally) a cold reminder of the characters who met their demise in the first seven seasons and a chilling (sorry) glimpse of the fate of the rest in the finale. A fitting tribute and a powerful teaser.

Mountain Dew’s campaign is perfectly aligned with the final season’s main theme (ice), the show’s heritage and one of the key characters/storylines. And it’s fun! Impressive.

KFC – Hot and spicy

It’s just too clever. On the surface KFC and GoT have very little in common (apart from being three letter acronyms). But some genius figured out that when freed from its bucket and arranged ‘just so’, KFC’s chicken looks a lot like fire. Simply insert a dragon, link to the hot and spicy range and suddenly there’s never been such a natural commercial partnership.

Johnnie Walker – White Walker Whiskey

North of the wall is bloody cold. So what better adult beverage to warm you up after a long day avoiding the white walkers than Johnnie Walker whiskey? And as if you needed reminding, thanks to cold-activated tech, when the bottle is frozen it reveals the ominous ‘Winter is here’. 

Shake Shack – Menu

Shake Shack has a ‘secret’ Game of Thrones menu. Not so ‘secret’ that you can’t find find an ad for it by simple Googling, but ‘secret’ nonetheless. We love that you can only place an order for the fiery Dracarys Burger and icy Dragonglass Shake by speaking entirely in Valyrian. Translation guide available here. You’re welcome.

New York – Takeover

In the build up to the premiere episode, New York Media’s group of websites (New York Magazine and its sister sites, The Cut and Vulture) were transformed by Game of Thrones homepage takeovers.

The cross-site promotion featured beautiful raven animations and a spooky typeface shift that instantly screamed GoT without being overly intrusive. Beautifully executed.

Orios – Epic cookies

Cookie giant Oreos has created limited-edition cookies embossed with the insignia of the four factions battling for the iron throne – a dragon (the Targaryens), a wolf (the Starks), a lion (the Lannisters) and a White Walker (shudder). It’s even sacrificed its logo ‘for the love of the throne’ by adopting the GoT typeface. 

But what did the Oreos team do to promote this epic cookie partnership you ask? They recreated the title sequence out of cookies of course! And the result is wonderful.

Adidas – Ultra Boost Special Edition

Just like they wear in Westeros, right? Adidas has paid tribute to Night’s Watch, the White Walkers, House Targaryen, the Targaryen’s dragons, House Stark, and House Lannister in the only way it knows how – through a six shoe range of £180 Ultra Boost 4.0 trainers!

The most remarkable thing about this partnership is that, against all odds, they look quite nice!

Urban Decay – Makeup

Urban Decay (us neither) has launched a collection of licensed beauty products inspired by Game of Thrones. Featuring palettes like ‘Lannister Red,’ ‘Winter is Here’ and ‘White Walker’ you can ‘get the throne look’ while your eyeshadow set sits upon its pop-up iron throne.

OK Cupid – Badge

Dating app OKCupid is now alerting users when there is a fellow Game of Thrones fan in their midst. The app allows users to display a badge if they watch GoT in the hope of matching with fellow Thronians.