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Save The Hobbit - Social Media, Stephen Fry and Gandalf Save Southampton Pub

Written by Craig Charley – Wed 21 Mar 2012

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Recently, one social media campaign has found it hard to stay out of the news for all the wrong reasons. What started off as an attempt to raise awareness of worrying problems Africa soon spiralled into something very different. A lot has been written about what went wrong on the Kony 2012 campaign. However, there is a more light hearted story of social media success at the moment involving a pub in Southampton called The Hobbit.

We can learn two things from this story. Firstly that the internet makes it easier for rights holders to find copy right infringement, and secondly that social media can be a powerful weapon if wielded properly.

If you are looking to increase your presence on the web then we recommend our Social Media training and Content Marketing training courses. As well as teaching you how to use the tools at your disposal, the courses are also designed to help you create and manage a successful marketing strategy.

The Hobbit Pub, Southampton

Nestled in the shire of Bevois Valley, Southampton is The Hobbit pub, popular with students. It is a place I visited regularly as a University of Southampton student and is well known for its 'Fellowship' cocktails named after Lord of the Rings characters.

The pub has traded under the name The Hobbit for over 20 years and as well as the cocktails features Tolkein-inspired wall murals in the beer garden and a characters from the films on its signs and loyalty cards.

In the words of Tolkein it's "Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it is a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

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Saul Zaentz Company Sue The Hobbit

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In early 2012, the pub received a letter from the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) which owns the rights to several J.R.R. Tolkein associated brands. SZC asked The Hobbit to remove all reference to the characters in The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings.

SZC have a history of this sort of thing, they unsuccessfully took on 'Hobbit Travel', and are currently involved in action against 'The Hungry Hobbit' sandwich shop near Birmingham and Microlodge in Scotland who used to sell 'Hobbit Homes'.

At the time, landlady Stella Mary Roberts claimed:

"We were absolutely stunned. It was completely unexpected, we never intended to infringe anyone's copyright. Are we doing any harm? I don't think so. We're bringing people to the books and the stories who haven't heard of JRR Tolkien."

"We don't have the financial resources to fight it - I can't fight Hollywood."

Things seemed doomed for The Hobbit, but not for long. In stepped University of Southampton student Heather Cartwright and the power of social media.

Local resident Heather Cartwright was not best pleased when she heard of the complaint and decided to set up a 'Save The Hobbit' campaign which is a great template for anybody looking to start their own campaign!

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