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Masters of Word of Mouth: The Hunger Games Marketing Team

You may remember a few months ago when I wrote a post about the Hunger Games pairing up with fansites to market their Facebook game. It was a creative way to generate excitement about their entire brand franchise during December 2012 while the next movie was still 11 months away.

Only a few weeks after I wrote that blog, the Hunger Games marketing team seemed to come out of the slow season to promote The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Their Facebook page – which has stayed extremely active during non-peak promotional times – has exploded with new announcements and brand new content. The marketing and PR team, with the help of many online publications, released a series of Capitol portraits to generate insane buzz, launch their Instagram account, and revitalize their Capitol Couture website.

But this isn’t the first time that the brilliant minds at Scholastic and Lionsgate have generated intense word of mouth for Catching Fire. Let’s do a recap of how they built enthusiasm for their product.

Catching Fire Casting News

Just a few months after the first Hunger Games movie was released, fans were already curious as to who would be playing the new characters introduced in Catching Fire. Instead of letting rumor mills fly and giving entertainment websites all of the glory, new cast members were announced right on the Facebook page.

It started on July 9 with the casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman:

philip seymour hoffman

A special Facebook tab was created to keep track of the new cast members. It was a one-stop destination to figure out who would be in the movie, but also to continue suspense.

hunger games casting

Before roles were cast, the boxes showed only a silhouette. Fans took to the comment section to make guesses at cast members and ended up generating a discussion of over 4,000 comments. New cast members were announced every couple of days which continued the momentum.

However, the casting anticipation was highest for new character Finnick Odair. The character becomes central to the plot of the second and third books (and is quite the heartthrob), so fans were in a tizzy waiting for this casting news.

But finally, on August 22, casting for Finnick was announced:

sam claflin

The movie took 6 weeks to announce their Finnick, which was six full weeks of word of mouth (and how the hashtag #Finnickgate was born). The last cast member was announced on September 7, which gave the brand two entire months of buzz for their casting.

But did they take a break there?  Of course not. They moved right on to…

A Set Trip Giveaway

Not wanting to lose the momentum they gained from the casting news, Lionsgate sponsored a giveaway to give two lucky fans a chance to visit the Catching Fire set during filming.

All that fans had to do was submit a video of them asking the cast and crew a question about the Hunger Games franchise.

This contest not only gave two fans a trip of a lifetime, but it also generated hundreds of fan videos at no cost to Lionsgate.

They kept the contest open for a month and didn’t announce the winners until the end of October.

After that they took a bit of a breather before…

A Moving Logo/Movie Poster

If you thought that movie posters were only 2D objects that hang in movie theaters and on bedroom walls, then your world is about to be changed forever.

By taking advantage of the latest web technologies and the renewed interest in moving gifs, Lionsgate created and released one of the first moving movie posters.

But it’s not enough just to create and release an embeddable moving logo. Fans were encouraged to share the image across their social networks with the accompanying hashtag #TheSpark. Out of the (hopefully) first 12 million fans who share the logo, Lionsgate will pick twelve winners who will be featured in the credits of Catching Fire.

Cover Story in Entertainment Weekly and Promotional Photos

Just as the buzz was starting to diminish, Lionsgate came back with, well, a roar.

In early January exclusive photos and the first look at Catching Fire were featured in a print issue of Entertainment Weekly and on their website. The photos quickly spread around the internet as fans discussed which scenes were being teased, how the actors looked as the characters, and the intricacies of costumes.

entertainment weekly photo

Photo credit: Murray Close

These were followed quickly by the first solely promotional image with the main characters.

victory tour picture

This picture received an unreal amount of engagement. At the time of this writing the picture on Facebook had 130,514 likes, 2,964 comments, and 14,816. Just a simple picture of the main characters and an allusion to a main plot point in the movie generated tons of excitement.

But now we get to one of their best marketing tactics yet…

The Capitol Couture Portraits

These are the portraits I mentioned earlier. After seeing the progression from casting news to production stills, you can understand why fans of the Hunger Games franchise were so excited about their release.

The portraits were released over the course of a week, with two to three portraits released per day. It started by the Capitol Couture Instagram account posting pictures of empty chairs with a clue attached. Fans would then be able to guess who would show up in the next picture.

capitol couture hint

The hint would also include what website would be hosting the portrait. Lionsgate teamed up with entertainment sites across the web and gave those sites exclusive rights to initially publish the portrait. For example, MSN was able to debut the portrait of heroine Katniss Everdeen. The Instagram account posted the picture a day later.

katniss everdeen capitol couture

It was great for the websites because they scored a lot of traffic; it was great for the fans because they were involved in an online scavenger hunt; and great for the Hunger Games franchise because these photos generated hundreds of webpages, thousands of social shares, and plenty of chatter.

But all of these just set the stage for the main attraction:

The Teaser Trailer

While many of us here at Quality Logo Products were hoping that  Lionsgate would release a teaser trailer after the Capitol Couture portraits, the studio decided to wait until this year’s MTV Movie Awards to release the trailer. Considering that the MTV Movie Awards and Catching Fire have about the same fanbase, this was an excellent time to release the trailer to really maximize their exposure.

The week before the release the Hunger Games Facebook page released stills from the teaser trailer to give fans a teaser of the teaser.

So when Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth introduced the trailer during the Movie Awards, social mentions exploded across the internet.

Needless to say, the marketing team has gotten fans pretty excited to see this movie.

The Hunger Games social media accounts are always active by frequently posting pictures, videos, or memes, but these specific events built excitement across the web and other mediums.

It’s not a huge surprise that they’re doing so well at generating buzz. The Hunger Games was lauded for having a remarkable social media campaign for the first movie in the franchise. But now that the first movie has been released and the fan base has grown exponentially, the promotional team has to top what they did for the first film.

And I think they’re doing an excellent job.

I’ll keep updating this post as the marketing campaign continues, but for now, I’ll leave you with these key takeaways for your own use.

  • Tease, tease, tease: About to release something new? Mention it on your social networks a few days in advance. Post a hint or a small, cropped picture. People love guessing about things and then finding out if they are right.
  • Make it visual: What’s the unifying factor in all of these events? Photos. Pictures are easy to produce and easy to digest. Sell something like software or freelancing services? Take screenshots of your finished products.
  • Sponsor a giveaway or promotion: Giving things away is sure to get people excited about your products. Contests are a proven way to boost Facebook fans and it’s easy to the information to be spread because people love free things. For example, our Pinterest contest increased traffic to our website and awareness about our products.

Have you been following The Hunger Games: Catching Fire marketing? Are you excited about the new movie? Which part of the campaign has been your favorite so far?

Expand Your Brand!

IMAGE CREDIT TO THE HUNGER GAMES FACEBOOK PAGE AND THE CAPITOL COUTURE INSTAGRAM PAGE. THE HUNGER GAMES IS COPYRIGHT OF SCHOLASTIC AND LIONSGATE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on

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