Why Lionsgate Embraced YouTube to Promote ‘The Hunger Games’

/ Nov 20, 2014


This article is syndicated from the Zefr blog with permission from the writers.

By Amanda Kirkham

With pre-sales for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” breaking records, one might assume, Lionsgate would barely have to promote a film franchise that, at this point, practically sells itself. And yet, it appears that Lionsgate smartly recognizes YouTube as the future of online video marketing and is looking to stay ahead of the curve.

The company recently teamed up with five different YouTube channels to create “District Voices,” a series of videos highlighting the varied functions of five of the film’s fictional districts. They’re meant to feel like short Capitol propaganda that will be familiar to the movie’s built-in fan base.

The film studio has jumped at the chance to experiment with targeting audiences on the platform. It seems their Hunger Games strategy is designed not only to drum up word-of-mouth anticipation among their fan base, but as a research experiment to help Lionsgate determine how best to utilize the YouTube platform to create new, forthcoming hits that have yet to find built-in audiences.

Because they understand the culture of online video, especially on YouTube, Lionsgate can target the right audience, with the right message. This is a great example for other studios that seek to have a successful presence on the platform, especially when introducing new franchises not immediately guaranteed to engage as wide a following as the enviable Hunger Games.

YouTubers of Panem

To star in this series of videos, Lionsgate recruited seven YouTubers from five different channels. It appears that each personality was chosen based upon the particular content of their channel. For example, iJustine, a YouTuber who makes videos about the latest tech, was chosen to be in a video discussing the transportation technology of Panem, the central fictional nation of The Hunger Games.

Similarly, Feast of Fiction was recruited  to create a video in which the channel’s stars, Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams, act as members of District 9. Feast of Fiction is a YouTube channel specializing in creating recipes inspired by fictional dishes, so they actually prepared fictional food items featured in the film.

Feast of Fiction continues the conversation with a wink to the film’s insider audience in the comments section.

Hunger Games on YouTube Comment 1.png

A science-focused channel, Veritasium, was enlisted to take part in a video focused on District 5, the energy district.

For District 2, FightTips, a YouTube channel specializing in martial arts training, was used to demonstrate the fighting capabilities of the film’s peacekeepers.

For District 8’s video, ThreadBanger was hired to represent the story’s clothing district.

Though the numbers for these videos pale in comparison to those for the trailers, it’s the forward-thinking aspect of Lionsgate’s strategy that demands attention. Reaching out to YouTubers to create specialized videos that fit each channel’s aesthetic and programming that fans of the films would recognize and enjoy, demonstrates that they understand their audience.

And this isn’t even the first time Lionsgate has turned to YouTube to promote “The Hunger Games.” For “Catching Fire” they teamed up with Movieclips Trailers to create a series of videos from each district. (Full disclosure: Zefr sold its Movieclips ownership to Fandango earlier this year).

In a sense, Lionsgate is not only investigating what works best on YouTube for future releases, but engaging Hunger Games fans in a manner that let’s them know they are part of a culture that the studio not only understands, but appreciates. The return on an investment such as this is nearly immeasurable, but can only help to fuel the anticipation beyond its already fevered pitch.

May the Data Be Ever in Your Favor

In terms of film-related YouTube views, nothing comes close to trailers. We tracked trailer growth for five of the trailers released for the film over a five-week period. The final trailer was only recently released so there is no data for the fourth, or fifth weeks.

Hunger Games.001

Each trailer saw increased growth from week to week, with Trailer #1 attracting the most views.


Lionsgate’s engagement with the fans of its Hunger Games franchise is a great example of a studio understanding the importance of connecting with their fans on YouTube. And they do it in an authentic way that never takes their loyalty for granted, but instead rewards and appreciates them with new, exclusive content. The trailers are doing well enough on their own but Lionsgate is making sure to engage their audience in a unique way. They were ahead of the game a year ago, and they’re continuing to stay relevant by actively participating and reinventing how films can be marketed on YouTube.

Zefr empowers brands to discover and target their most important influencers, fans, and topics in video. With more data than any other YouTube partner, Zefr’s BrandID platform provides a lens into culture and the tools to turn insights into more impactful media for brands.

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