How HBO used video game fandom to market ‘The Last of Us’

HBO’s marketing team continued to drop teasers for the show over the following year, including another image shared in partnership with Playstation for its Summer Game Fest event and the first trailer during “The Last of Us” Day 2022, which gained over 57 million organic views in its first 72 hours (the most-watched promo in the network’s history, according to HBO).

“We called it breadcrumb content,” said Giannusa, who defined the term as slowly giving “the fans little pieces of breadcrumbs to show that we’re going to stay faithful to the source material, but with the premium quality of HBO.”

They added that “you don’t have to start right out the gate with everything … especially for video games—and I think this is just my mantra in general—you have to always be listening to the data and the audiences and the insights. We were really fortunate to start a year out and be able to map content and experiences to specific audiences, and make sure it spoke to them to make sure this thing lands.”

For example, when initially planning the “The Last of Us” campaign, Giannusa expected to have to launch explainer posts, letters of endorsement from the game’s creators and side-by-side images of the show and game to prove its fidelity. But those elements were called off when they saw the fandom rallying around content and shepherding new fans into the community.

“We just let the fans do their thing and saw that behavior—we don’t really need to create all this game-to-screen content, because the fans are doing it for us,” said Giannusa. “Let’s continue to fuel the content sphere with things like [“HBO’s The Last of Us”] podcast that will speak to them and get them talking about subsequent episodes.”

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