In 2010, the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" premiered to 4.8 million viewers (the best start for an HBO series since 2004). With that milestone in mind, the second season premiere had to stack up. The overall marketing goal was to create a must-see level of anticipation that equaled the scope of the series – epic and groundbreaking. Civic Entertainment Group handled the experiential mobile component of the promotion.
Boardwalk Empire revolves around a central character: Nucky Thompson, the undisputed leader of Atlantic City who is equal parts gangster, corrupt politician and benefactor to the community. Being part of Nucky’s inner circle had its perks, and it was this angle that the promotion centered on.
In partnership with the MTA New York City Transit, HBO created a fully immersive Boardwalk Empire experience for subway riders, transporting them back to the prohibition era by running an authentic 1920s-era vintage train on the 2 and 3 lines in Manhattan for four weekends in September leading up to the premiere.
Riders were visibly surprised by the nostalgic train, a transit museum relic, pulled up to the platform and MTA staff invited them onboard. The train’s authentic details, such as rattan seats, ceiling fans and drop sash windows, as well as a custom branded interior featuring Boardwalk Empire-inspired period artwork, transported MTA riders back in time to the Prohibition era. During the premiere weekend, brand ambassadors dressed in period garb distributed free MetroCards, compliments of Nucky, throughout the city.
In addition, the campaign included partnerships with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, Canadian Club Whisky, LivingSocial and Caesars, providing consumers with a variety of fitting experiences and offers under one unifying “Compliments of Nucky” theme.
The season 2 premiere netted 12 million viewers in its first week across all broadcasts, surpassing the season 1 premiere. The program generated $5 million in value via partnerships with out of home media, on-site signage and branding in retail environments, hotels and transportation hubs.
There were more than 140 million earned-media impressions, including NPR, Multichannel News, Huffington Post, Ad Week, Gawker and more. The ROI achieved a 5:1 ratio vs. campaign cost.