Hunger Games’ Capitol plan for fans
May 30, 2012 | Michelle Warren | Comments
A look under the hood of Lionsgate’s disruptive, immersive campaign that launched The Hunger Games theatrical release into the stratosphere
When The Hunger Games pulled in $155 million in North America during its opening weekend, the most ever for a non-sequel, it was as much to do with a multi-platform campaign that some argue created a new digital template for content marketing—both within the entertainment industry and beyond—as it was an adaptation of a book that was required reading for anyone under legal drinking age (and their caregivers).
Forget branded lunchboxes and “leaked” move trailers. As marketers look for ways to connect with fragmented audiences, auxiliary customizable content is mandatory. Not surprisingly, social media is the channel of choice.
While strategies are evolving daily, the standard approach looks something like this: build a website with sharable content, such as outtakes and interviews with everyone from the director down to food services. Buy promotion through Facebook or Twitter, prompting early fans to start passing the content around, generating awareness, and pay the major social platforms to help move things along—it’s manufactured social media buzz and it works.
Lionsgate’s campaign for The Hunger Games however, supercharged things.
“It started a year-and-a-half ago,” says Alliance Films’ manager of digital marketing, Lauren Jacob, who handled The Hunger Games’ Canadian release. “The strategy was to take this core group of fans who were so into the book and let them grow the fan base for the movie.”
The digital campaign started with the launch of the website TheCapitol.pn, where visitors registered for their citizenship pass (via their Facebook or Twitter accounts) and were assigned a “district.” Right away they were part of the community and diving headfirst into the plight of the characters.
“Every few months there was a new layer for fans to talk about,” says Jacob, adding it’s important to keep the momentum going—you can’t let it fizzle or go stale.
The effort included a mayoral race for each District, 13 Facebook pages (one for each District), a Twitter account whereby the oppressive Capitol regime tweeted in character, and a Tumblr blog, Capitol Couture. And, of course, everything was accessible by mobile.
The campaign is heralded because Lionsgate didn’t just post trailers and movie content online—it created illustrious interactive and customizable content that enabled fans to dive in on their terms.
And, just three days before the March 19 movie premiere, when the digital team could have rested on its laurels, it launched a new site with an interactive detailed tour of the Capitol, accessible through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“You don’t have to manufacture your social media campaign when you make the content so good it has to go social,” says Jacob.
During its opening weekend, The Hunger Games generated more than three million conversations on the social web, according to social media monitoring platform Radian6. In addition, Lionsgate’s shares jumped 4% the following Monday—that’s on top of the 33% increase in the six weeks leading up to the premiere.
“It raised the bar digitally, but the important thing to remember is you still had all your broad-based tactics,” says Jacob, adding digital comprised 20% of the media budget (the first time a digital spend was larger than that of specialty TV).
Joanna Miles, VP of marketing for Alliance Films and team lead on The Hunger Games, says timing was critical to the success of the campaign. Every piece of communication—digital or otherwise—was plotted far in advance. “It’s really important to have a strategy—you can’t just go out there, throw things at the wall and hope they stick.”
But part of the strategy was ensuring they didn’t give too much away. “The idea was if you want to see the Games [that take place in the movie], you have to buy the ticket. We didn’t want people to feel like they’d been there, done that,” says Miles, adding not once did fans have a sneak peek at the actual Games, whether in a trailer or clip online.
Big-time Box Office
The much-hyped The Hunger Games enjoyed the best ever debut for a non-sequel movie. In fact, only two films have had better North American opening weekend box office numbers.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Dark Knight (Batman Begins sequel)
The Hunger Games
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