Bridging fantasy with reality in the North

Tourism Ireland will promote the region as a holiday destination to ‘Game of Thrones’ fans

 Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth in HBO’s  Game of Thrones, which is filmed mostly in Northern Ireland

Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth in HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is filmed mostly in Northern Ireland

 

“Winter is coming!” might seem like an unusual thing for a tourism marketing agency to say in a press release about an area not known for its ski resorts. But the line will make perfect sense to its intended target market: fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones that Tourism Ireland is hoping to attract to Northern Ireland.

The show, set largely in the fantasy world of Westeros and filmed mostly in the North, opens with the dire warning that “winter is coming” to Westeros.

In an 11-week campaign timed to coincide with the advent of the show’s fourth series, Tourism Ireland advertisements on Facebook and Twitter across several markets will “aim to leverage the incredible success of the HBO brand . . . and its strong associations with Northern Ireland, the physical and spiritual home of the series”.

The all-Ireland tourism promotion body will also post Game of Thrones -themed social media messages to its 2.1 million Facebook fans and 120,000 followers, directing them to the filming location guide (with helpful suggested itineraries and accommodation options) on its site, Ireland.com/GameofThrones.

“The ads, which have been developed in close collaboration with HBO, have been specially designed to bridge the fantasy of Game of Thrones with the reality of Northern Ireland, the holiday destination,” Tourism Ireland says.

Images featured in the campaign include the Dark Hedges, an “iconic” avenue of beech trees near Ballymoney, Co Antrim, that has a more poetic real-life name than fictional one – in the series, it appears as a section of the Kingsroad.

Actor Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth, noted at a recent Sky Ireland screening of the show that scenes set on his character’s boat were filmed “in a car park in Banbridge”. This sounds like a tougher sell.

And it’s only fair, surely, for tourism marketers to add the disclaimer that whenever it looks a bit warm on Game of Thrones , those bits are most likely filmed in sunny Croatia, Malta or Morocco.

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