With five best-selling novels by George R.R. Martin, three TV series from HBO and a plethora of consumer products, Game of Thrones is a massive fantasy epic - but it's not just for geeks.
After successfully launching in April 2011 on HBO, Game of Thrones was honoured with two Emmy awards. One year later, the first season on DVD and Blu-Ray smashed HBO records for units sold and most digital downloads in its first week. It was hailed the most successful DVD franchise launch in HBO series history.
Season two launched globally on TV in April 2012 and once again set all time rating highs for HBO, this time with six Emmy wins. The season two box set DVD and Blu-Ray is currently topping all DVD/Blu-Ray sales charts, while the third season has just ended on TV. A fourth is set for 2014.
Proof then, that this property has true mass market appeal.
Game of Thrones blends political and sexual intrigue as seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. It's not your typical fantasy epic - there are more twists than there are axes and spells, keeping fans on their toes. A point proven in the wake of Season III Episode Nine's ('The Rains of Castamere'), which saw fans flock to social media sites in the thousands to express their shock.
Part of the saga's success comes down to its character depth, relationships, scandals and schemes. Not only does this make great TV, but viewers can associate with and side for different characters, whether it's the outcast Jon Snow, anti-hero dwarf Tyrion Lannister or last-of-her-line Daenerys Targaryen.
Jenny Johnstone, Director of Business Development at Bradford Licensing Europe, which manages the Game of Thrones licensing programme, tells Licensing.biz: "The show has many universal themes that attract a wide audience so HBO is able to target a large demographic which includes male and females ranging from 18 to 49 years old.
"Game of Thrones is without doubt an exceptional show. A well-founded indication of its popularity is its recent accolade as the winner of the 2013 Radio Times Audience BAFTA - the only publicly voted category. To put this into context, it was simply selected as the nation's favourite TV show."
So, what of the licensing programme?
Game of Thrones has a vast array of consumer products, from apparel to shot glasses and figures to even beer and other collectables. Not only that, but it's the fastest-growing licensed merchandise property for HBO.
It's the best-selling franchise in terms of merchandise sales on HBO Shop Europe, accounting for 75 per cent of sales in 2012. And it's growing stronger still.
"2013 will see the launch of new products across the US, Europe and the rest of the world," says Johnstone. "We will have new tees and hoodies, printed material such as calendars and posters, mugs, glassware, replica weapons, bags, jewellery, collectible figurines (from Dark Horse), and much more.
"The very latest product launches include a second set of Funko Pop! Vinyl figures featuring Robb Stark, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Arya Stark, Jon Snow and Renly Barathon.
"There remains some key categories that we hope to expand on including complimentary publishing formats, new gaming formats (online/digital/mobile/console etc.), dress-ups and plush.
"We are always looking at new products ideas for Game of Thrones, I think HBO’s partnering with Ommegang (http://www.ommegang.com/got/) for a series of Game of Thrones beers is a good indication of how far thinking our ideas are. So watch this space."
The brand's strength and marketing campaigns are also expanding.
A Game of Thrones global touring exhibition is underway, which started off in Toronto on March before travelling down to New York then heading to Brazil in April. It has also visited Amsterdam and will end in Belfast this month (June 17th).
The free exhibition features costumes and props from the series and a 'Blackwater Bay Interactive Experience', which lets fans participate in an interactive experience - the battle of Blackwater Bay from season two.
With several new books in the works, plus season four of the TV show, as well as a growing number of consumer products on the market, the Game of Thrones phenomenon is set to continue come winter - and beyond.
The US TV series has been sold to over 160 territories including:
- The UK (Sky Atlantic and Sky One)
- Australia (Foxtel Management Pty and Showtime)
- Germany/Austria/Switzerland (Turner Broadcasting and RTL 2)
- Spain (Antenna 3 De and DTS Distribution (Canal Satellite Digital))
- Scandinavia (C More Entertainment and NRK in Norway)
- Italy (Sky Italia)
- Netherlands (HBO Networks)
ABOUT BRADFORD LICENSING
It first opened its doors to the world of marketing and licensing in 1986. Since then it has worked across a multitude of industries, enhancing brand awareness and generating new revenue streams.
Bradford's headquarters is in the New York tri-state area, with additional offices in India, the UK and China.
"We have strategic alliances in the rest of the major markets such as Latin America, Japan, Middle East, Australia, and South Africa," explains Johnstone.
"We offer comprehensive and innovative services for your worldwide licensing programmes. Bradford remains an industry leader. As a company of innovative experts in the marketplace, we are primed and ready to make your brand a global phenomenon."
LIST OF LICENSEES
- Big Point (online game)
- Chronicle Books
- Dark Horse Comics (poly-resin statues, snow globes, stationery, mugs, and many other accessories)
- Disruptor Beam (online game)
- Fantasy Flight Games (board/card games)
- Funko (vinyl figures)
- Jalic (replica weapons and armour)
- Olga Ganoudis Designs (jewellery, sculptured eggs)
- Ommegang Brewery (beer)
- Pyramid (posters, art/canvass prints)
- Abysee Corp (T-shirts, mugs, coasters and more)
- Danilo (calendars)
- Dirac/SD Toys (T-shirts, mugs, bookmarks and more)
- Elbenwald (T-shirts, mugs, coasters, journals and more)
- Ikon Collectibles (T-shirts, mugs, keychains, lunch boxes, stickers and more)
- Trademark Products (T-shirts and apparel)
- Underground Toys (glassware, notebooks, mugs, magnets, badges and more)
- Eleni's (cookies)
- Factory Entertainment (plush)
- Fifth Sun (T-shirts and apparel)
- Gear4 (electronics, headphones and iPhone cases)
- IML (T-shirts)
- Insight Editions (poster books and pop-up books)
- Junk Food (T-shirts)
- Rittenhouse Archives (Trading Cards)
- Rizzoli (wall calendars)
- Think Geek (novelty salt and pepper, umbrellas and gifts)
- Zing Revolution (mobile phone, MP3, laptop skins)
Special thanks to Dominique Robinson of HBO for helping with this article.