Red Cross Taps Cultural Phenomenon to Drive Blood Donations

Every now and then, a cultural phenomenon takes hold – it’s the thing talked about at the water cooler, dinner table and in line for coffee. That’s the case with the television show “Game of Thrones,” which in 2017 set a ratings record when 12.1 million viewers tuned in for its season finale. Opportunistic brands have begun tapping into the spectacle – from Bud Light’s Super Bowl collaboration to a rumored adidas Ultra Boost/GoT collection. And now, a nonprofit is harnessing the power of the Game of Thrones sensation to drive awareness and action around a critical need.


As any regular viewer knows, winter brings its own challenges to the “Game of Thrones” world, and much like in Westeros, the cold months also create barriers for the American Red Cross*. The organization saw a drop-in blood donations due to snow and extreme cold this season. To increase life-saving blood donations and rally fans, the Red Cross has partnered with HBO and Game of Thrones for the “Bleed for the Throne” campaign. Leading up to the series finale, the Red Cross will hold blood drives in 43 states, as well as nine college and universities, between March and April. Cliff Numark, senior vice president, American Red Cross Blood Services, explains the simple call to action: “Winter is finally here, and the needs are dire. No matter who you’re rooting for to take the throne, you can be a hero for patients in need.” Beyond the opportunity for fans to “Bleed for the Throne” for a good cause, participants who donate blood between February 19 and March 17 will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of five trips to the season eight world premiere of “Game of Thrones.” And to gain even more momentum around the partnership, both brands will host an “immersive blood drive experience unlike any other” at SXSW this March.

Not only is “Game of Thrones” a cultural phenomenon, the collaboration with the Red Cross is a record in its own right. The partnership marks “the largest blood donation promotional effort by an entertainment company in American Red Cross history,” according to Medium.  And a campaign of this magnitude can have lasting impacts for the nonprofit long after the promotion has ended. As a core group of blood donors grows older, the Red Cross / “Game of Thrones” partnership helps to solve a critical short-term need, but also works to cement the next generation of loyal blood donors.

(American Red Cross is a client of Cone)