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How HBO Max Planned Date Nights for 180 Couples Over Four Days

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Written by CLAIRE HOFFMAN at BizBash

To celebrate season two of Love Life starring William Jackson Harper, the brand teamed up with dating app BLK and Black Restaurant Week to host a series of date nights around the country.

To promote season two of its original series Love Life, HBO Max hosted romantic evenings at eight Black-owned restaurants in New York, Los Angeles (pictured), Atlanta and Detroit.

Photo: Joseph Johnson

For the season one premiere of its original series Love Life, HBO Max created an at-home date kit, chock-full of all the necessities needed for a romantic evening—including a three-course meal, a make-your-own Manhattan cocktail kit, branded wine glasses, candles and even a themed game. It was an appropriate choice for the season, which premiered in May 2020 during the height of COVID-19-related restrictions.

But for season two—which premiered in late October and stars William Jackson Harper and Jessica Williams—HBO Max brought the date nights back to restaurants, hosting a four-day series of romantic evenings at eight Black-owned eateries throughout the country.

Restaurant partners were BLVD Bistro and Negril BK in New York; Alta Adams and Post and Beam in Los Angeles; Central Kitchen + Bar, Ivy Kitchen + Cocktails and Good Times On The Ave in Detroit; and Negril ATL in Atlanta.

Photo: Joseph Johnson

“We took inspiration from the show’s focus on [main character] Marcus’ dating life, and specifically the experience of navigating love as a Black man, to create a date-night activation that centered these two elements,” said JP Mallo, vice president of HBO Max Originals marketing. “Going out to dinner is a common activity for new couples, so we thought a restaurant experience would be a great way to introduce the new season to our audience.”

The activation came about via a partnership with dating app BLK and events platform Black Restaurant Week. Mallo described the partners as a natural fit for the experiences. “BLK has a strong presence in the world of multicultural dating as the No. 1 dating app made for Black singles, and Black Restaurant Week has been working for over five years to introduce the flavors of African-American, African and Caribbean cuisine to the wider culinary community,” he explained.

Taking place from Oct. 26-29, the events popped up at restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta. The cities were chosen due to their prominent dining scenes, and also as a nod to the show (which takes place in New York, with the main character hailing from Michigan). “We worked with each restaurant to create food and cocktail menu items inspired by characters and events in the series,” added Mallo. “For example, each restaurant had a list of ‘Marcus’ Picks’ from their food menu and a custom cocktail titled ‘The Paloma,’ which was inspired by Marcus’ second date in the series.”

On the tables were BLK-branded conversation cards featuring creative prompts, asking couples to discuss everything from their favorite books to their perspectives on dating and relationships.

Photo: Joseph Johnson

There were also themed place settings and neon signage ready for photo ops, and each table also featured conversation cards. “The prompts were taken from general dating questions such as preferences in music taste to elements that are touched on in the show,” said Mallo. “For example, Marcus leans on his sister Ida for guidance as he navigates this new chapter in his life, so we included a question asking if your date has siblings and what that relationship is like.”

The activations were open to the public; fans could either sign up via a dedicated Black Restaurant Week website or from the BLK dating app. Overall, more than 180 reservations were made over the course of the campaign.

“Right now, we are in a world where people want to get out and celebrate together,” said Mallo. “Consumers are looking for opportunities to get together where they can have a good time while being safe. The Love Life Date Night checked both boxes of an in-person event that offered a chance to interact and make connections while staying safe—which was a win in our book.”

HBO Max was sure to offer options for fans who couldn’t attend in-person, though, by providing chef-favorite dinner and cocktail recipes accessible from home. The brand worked with CSM Sports and Entertainment to produce the events and the Black Restaurant Week partnership, while zakHill managed the BLK partnership.



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