The final season of Game of Thrones debuts on HBO April 14, but the bloodshed started earlier today at SXSW. The Emmy-winning, fantastical fire-breathing drama teamed with the American Red Cross at the Austin confab for a special campaign called “Bleed For The Throne” — and it involves a lot of blood. Seriously.
The event/activation is part of the show’s #ForTheThrone global marketing campaign (which lauched with the Bud Light x Game of Thrones commercial during the Super Bowl) that celebrates all the blood that was shed leading up to the final season. From Ned Stark’s beheading to the Red Wedding to the pseudo-death of Jon Snow, we have seen gallons and gallons of blood flood the series and SXSW gives fans the opportunity to give back.
Giving blood is the centerpiece of the activation (if you choose not to give blood, that’s an option) but it is a very immersive experience that echoes last year’s Westworld spectacle. HBO did not skimp on the details with this experience as it features in-character players throughout. As you walk in, you immediately see the Iron Throne with a Red Cross above as a choir sings Gregorian songs including the theme to GoT.
The experience is all about going into battle for the Iron Throne and following in the footsteps of those who have bled for it. You are given a pair of headphones and walk through a Westeros maze of sorts that is essentially an audio recap of past seasons that follows four characters’ journey to the Throne: Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister and Tyrion Lannister. There is even one point when you get to experience Cersei’s a walk of “shame!” — with clothes, obviously. Perhaps this is HBO’s subtle way to tell us that, in the end, the Iron Throne will go to one of these four characters. My fingers are crossed for Arya.
At the end of the maze, you are brought to the front of the Iron Throne as the choir continues to sing (you can hear them throughout the maze as well) and when your name is called by the mistress of ceremonies (she’s reminiscent of the Lady in Red), you literally have to “bend the knee” and you receive a SXSW-branded “Hand of the King” pin and then go off to “train” for battle. And by train, I mean you end up in an area that is fully populated with in-character actors playing GoT-adjacent characters including The Watchers of the Wall, the Unsullied and the Dothraki. There was even a palm reader, sword fights and a Shake Shack counter for you to dine on a burger whilst watching a blacksmith smelts weaponry amongst horses — just like they have in good ol’ Westeros!
HBO does not play when it comes to their activations and immersive experiences. Even though it is on the east side of Austin, word of mouth will spread fast and this will instantly become one of the most popular experiences of the fest. It will certainly be one of the most popular activations of the fest.
For fans who do give blood, they will receive an exclusive Bleed For The Throne T-shirt and an opportunity to win a trip to the world premiere of Game of Thrones.
SXSW marks the launch of “Bleed For The Throne”, which is the largest blood donation promotional effort by an entertainment company in American Red Cross history . The partnership will include an immersive experience at SXSW from March 7–9 at SXSW. This is in addition to blood drives in 43 states and 9 colleges and universities across the U.S. from March 7–12.