How A Coffee Cup In Season 8 Of “Game Of Thrones” Gave Starbucks $2.3 Billion In Free Advertising

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May 08 2019
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How much do you think coffee house Starbucks is willing to pay for an advertisement worth a staggering US$2.3 billion? Fortunately to the Seattle-based coffee company that operates over 30,000 chains worldwide, it was free advertising over the last few days – thanks to “The Last of the Starks” – the fourth episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 8.


On Sunday, the screw-up by HBO was spotted by eagle-eyed fans when a modern-day coffee cup appeared in the episode. Needless to say, photos and videos of the coffee cup which resembles that of the Starbucks‘ iconic cup went viral on social media. People started to talk, joke and mock how Starbucks exist in the world of dungeons and dragons.


HBO has released a statement confirming that “the latte” that appeared in the episode was a mistake. The producer has digitally removed the coffee cup from the episode. But while fans speculated that it was the iconic green logo of Starbucks, the show’s art director, Hauke Richter, revealed that the cup wasn’t even from Starbucks, but from a local coffee shop in Northern Ireland, where many of the scenes were shot.

Game of Thrones - Starbucks Coffee Cup - Season 8

Game of Thrones - Starbucks Coffee Cup - Season 8 - Blunder

Still, not many were convinced that it was purely an honest mistake. “You’re telling me they have TWO YEARS to put together a decent show and they couldn’t even spot the goddamn Starbucks cup in Winterfell??!?!” – wrote Jenna Guillaume, one of Twitter users. Other fans were equally flabbergasted by the unbelievable blunder since HBO spends millions on every single episode.


Regardless whether it was a mistake or a secret deal between Starbucks and HBO as part of a brilliant advertising strategy, the value generated from all the buzz of the coffee cup was estimated at a mind-boggling US$2.3 billion. That’s the value estimated by Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing company Hollywood Branded.


Jones, according to CNBC, puts that figures based on PR subscriptions service Critical Mention, which has tallied 10,627 mentions of “Starbucks” and “Game of Thrones” online, TV and radio worldwide. She said – “This is a once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, because what isn’t being monitored or estimated is the word of mouth and social media.”

Game of Thrones - Starbucks Coffee Cup - Now You See It Now You Don't

“Talkwalker”, another social media analytics and monitoring platform, however, counted more than 193,000 mentions within 48 hours about “Starbucks” and “Game of Thrones,” or a variation of the series’ hashtag – either on Twitter, social forums, blogs and news sites. Even after the coffee cup had been removed, talks about Starbucks and the episode on Twitter and Reddit continued.


Dan Hill, CEO of Hill Impact, a company specializes in PR and marketing, said – “It’s impossible to put a real figure on how much free advertising Starbucks gets out of the situation, but it’s in a totally different category than product placement because it was accidental, which makes it more valuable. Plus, this one will live on as a meme, so I guess you could say it’s a gift that will keep on giving.”


Starbucks, on the other hand, has every reason to smile and laugh all the way to the bank. The fact that so many people associated the cup with Starbucks speak volumes about the strength of the coffee shop’s brand. Two weeks ago, the coffee chain reported fiscal second-quarter net income of US$663.2 million. Its net sales for the quarter alone were US$6.31 billion.

Starbucks Sued - Too Much Ice

HBO, the producer responsible for the US$15 million per episode of the “Game of Thrones”, might have to live with mocks, insults and memes over the coffee cup screw-up – for a very long time. The May 5 episode drew 11.8 million viewers for its first airing. It’s understandable why some fans still could not forgive HBO. This is the first time such embarrassing mistake had happened since the first season of “Game of Thrones”.


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