Starbucks saved billions on advertising from ‘Game of Thrones’ blunder

Misplaced cup in GoT Season 8 Episode 4 gives Starbucks free mention

Racism in Starbucks | AFP

A misplaced coffee cup became the star of ‘Game of Thrones’ episode, “The Last of the Starks” for three days now. The fans of the show somehow spotted a modern day coffee cup in a feast scene in the episode and all the chatter began.

Interestingly, the cup which created the whole drama was not even in focus during the scene. Neither do we see any of the characters using the cup. It was the eagle eyes of GoT fans who paused and zoomed in on the clip.

HBO acknowledged the mistake through a tweet and the show’s makers wrote “#Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.” The cup has been now officially edited out of the scene but photos and videos of the scene are spreading like wildfire in Social Media.

While an array of memes poke fun at the biggest show on Television, Starbucks, the Seattle based coffee house chain, has reason to celebrate. The label on the cup was muddled but fans and memes mentioned Starbucks as the label. Thanks to the fans, the wild guess was certainly in gain for the coffee house chain even after it is confirmed that the cup doesn’t belong to the Starbucks.

Starbucks Coffee also responded with a tweet on Monday, “TBH we’re surprised she didn’t order a Dragon Drink.” The Dragon Drink has no connection to Game of Thrones though it was officially introduced a week before the episode. The unintended cameo by a craft services cup thus gained Starbucks the opportunity to plug its Dragon Drink.

Experts are now coming out with estimates about the monetary gain Starbucks got from the free advertisement. In an interview with CNBC, Stacy Jones, CEO of the marketing company, Hollywood Branded, estimated a gain of $2.3 billion from the entire buzz. Citing the 10,627 mentions of Starbucks and Game of Thrones that were tallied by PR subscriptions service Critical Mention, Jones says this is just the tip of the iceberg. Their analysis did not include word of mouth and social media mentions.

Dan Hill, CEO of Hill Impact, suggested that the accidental nature of the incident gave it more value than product placement. Hill, however, said that the viral nature of the event was less about Starbucks’ brand power and more about pointing out HBO’s mistake.

HBO, however, doesn’t typically accept pay for product placement in the shows as the customers pay for an ad-free experience while signing up. But still, if HBO had a policy for product placement and if Game of Thrones had a contemporary setting, it would have cost Starbucks between $250,000 to $1 million in fees. 

The impact of the social media response to the incident may not be favourable for the show but it surely is in favour for Starbucks. The publicity value gained from the show is real. Whether the cup actually belongs to the brand matters little when the end outcome is concerned. Starbucks just gained a free advertisement.