Game of Thrones has been filmed on location in Northern Ireland for 6 years.
Tourism Ireland tasked us with attracting more fans to visit, and tempting them to travel around the country whilst they are there, rather than just staying in the areas surrounding Belfast.
We knew that the answer lay in creating a campaign that leveraged the incredible global media interest surrounding the show, but it wasn’t until a seemingly terrible event occurred that an opportunity presented itself.
In January 2016, the Game of Thrones filming location, and 400-year-old tourist attraction The Dark Hedges, was hit hard by Storm Gertrude. Amidst the devastation, one thing remained. Wood. And lots of it.
While the world’s media were mourning the loss of these historic trees, we set about salvaging the wood, and using it to create a lasting legacy for fans.
Over ten weeks, we transformed the trees that fell that day into 10 beautifully crafted, bespoke doors. Each depicting an episode from Game of Thrones season 6.
Each week a new door was installed at the beating heart of a Northern Irish community – the local pub of a Game of Thrones filming location.
Together the doors now form a pub-crawl through season 6 that spans the length and breadth of the country.
To create the stunning doors, world-class illustrators were given access to plot lines and story details a few days before each episode aired. As well as being inspired by the show, their designs also reflected historical Celtic symbolism and local flora as a tribute to the filming locations of Northern Ireland. The illustrations had to be highly relevant, without being so overt as to give away spoilers – so finding a subtle balance was critical.
Once the illustrators had worked their magic, the designs were sent to CGI artists who interpreted the sketches in 3D. Each was then carved into the precious wood using a CNC router. Finally, the doors were stained and varnished by a specialist set painter who actually works on the show.
Each of the finished doors was then hung and photographed before being unveiled to the public on the same day that the corresponding episode aired.
As each new door was unveiled, the story grew. But it wasn’t just the designs that fans were talking about, the very media itself had a story to tell, amplifying the appeal of our campaign.
What began as a tragedy is now a worldwide celebration of Northern Ireland’s links with the most popular TV show of all time.
A permanent fixture embedded in Northern Irish Culture.
The trees that fell that day were transformed from a devastated tourist attraction, into a brand new one, using two things now synonymous with Northern Ireland. Game of Thrones. And Pubs.
Tourism Ireland was welcomed into Game of Thrones fan culture. For 10 weeks, fans were actively seeking out our content.
Online, fans worked together to decipher the meaning of the designs, tried to guess where the next week’s door would appear, and shared them far and wide within their community.
But most importantly, the Game of Thrones pub-crawl is now a pilgrimage for Game of Thrones fans around the world.
Independent companies have even set up tours of all 10 doors, receiving bookings from as far as Japan, the US, and Australia.
Several of the pubs reported close to a doubling of profits since the trail was completed.
MTV: “The Irish Game of Thrones pub crawl is literally everything”
Cosmopolitan: “You NEED to know about this Game of Thrones pub crawl”
ITV News: “These doors are part of Game of Thrones history”
126,000,000 People Reached
The rugged yet beautiful Northern Irish countryside provides the perfect backdrop for the mythical land of Westeros.
It’s this wild landscape that brings the show to life. In the eyes of the fans, Northern Ireland is Westeros. So in order to resonate with fans, we wanted to use an iconic filming location in a new and exciting way.
The show’s audience already generate a huge amount of content online, so anything we produced solely through digital channels risked being drowned out.
They are also notoriously critical of brands attempting to piggyback on the show’s popularity. So we had to add value to their tight-knit community, in order to spread our message through fan-run social channels and traditional media alike.
Game of Thrones filming locations are dotted around Northern Ireland. But we didn’t just place our media in a filming location, we used a filming location itself as the media – the fallen trees of the Dark Hedges.
In Northern Ireland, pubs are at the core of small communities, so we chose 10 pubs near filming locations as the sites for our doors.
These varied in sizes and dimensions from location to location - so each one had to be completely unique.
The finished doors were then hung and photographed before being unveiled to the public on the same day as the corresponding episodes aired.
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