FX Overcomes Challenges to Bring Biker Show to Life
Most brands build mobile tours with consumer engagement top of mind. But for TV networks, especially those promoting a popular series, being engaging isn’t always enough. Their unique challenge is to make sure that the mobile tour’s interior and exterior environments stand up to the show’s set designs. Beware if you plan to cut corners: the fans will know.
For the fall 2009 launch of the season premiere of FX Network’s hit motorcycle series “Sons of Anarchy,” the network created a mobile replica of the show’s iconic SAMCRO Clubhouse to travel to motorcycle rallies across the country. The objective was to drive tune-in by immersing fans into a temporary environment that they would recognize as being authentically modeled after the show. To pull it off, FX hired Windham, NH-based Hadley Media.
Once Hadley Media got the green light on the project it visited the show’s set to take reference photos to work from. The agency worked with FX to nail down exactly which portions of the set would be replicated and which props would be borrowed for the tour. When all graphics and plans were approved, the team hit up secondhand shops and yard sales in search of gems to add to the design. The team of 10 matched paint colors and decorative finishes to the photos they originally shot on set.
“We can go out there with a lot of different exhibits and events, but if it doesn’t capture what people see on TV and make them feel like they are really part of the show live and in real time then it doesn’t really work for us,” says Kenya Hardaway, Director of Integrated Promotions at FX Networks. “It’s important that it has that authenticity to bring fans a true representation of the series that they love.”
The result was indeed an impressive replica of the SAMCRO Clubhouse made up of wall sections made out of corrugated plastic (lighter material for travel) that snapped together to make it easy for set up and break down. Doors were then attached at the front and back. Once the walls were secure, the roof trusses and panels were assembled. The interior was peppered with furnishings, props, lights and an LCD screen. On the exterior, it was painted black with “Sons of Anarchy” graphics tagged on it, including “Ride Free or Die” and tune-in information. The project took about three-and-a-half weeks to complete. It packed up and traveled in a 26-foot truck.
Highlights of the décor included a replica bar, tables, light fixtures, signs and a stripper pole. Other details that added an authentic feel were replica leather biker vests purchased from an independent bike maker that serves the biker community in California. Rings worn by the characters on the show were displayed safely in a clear locked box (one person was assigned to handle the rings) as well as the Bluebird Supply Company sign featured in the opening scene of the series’ first episode.
On event days, fans passing through received a custom airbrushed bandana. Fans could also enter to win a tricked-out 2009 FXD DYNA Superglide bike ridden on the show (two handlers were assigned to the bike).
As a bonus, fans who visited the mobile tour got to step inside a version of the “Sons” set with all four walls, versus just the three walls that make up the TV show’s studio set—a treat not even the actors get to experience.