Skip to main content

Game Of Thrones' Coffee Cup Gave Starbucks Literally Billions Of Dollars In Free (Misplaced) Publicity

Game of Thrones Season 8 Winterfell scene with coffee cup

Starbucks was the clear winner of Game of Thrones this week. It didn't have a blessed thing to do with Season 8, Episode 4 -- which was dark and full of errors -- but because some random craft services cup was left in that Winterfell scene, it was credited to Starbucks. And Starbucks is #winning big from the unexpected free publicity.

"Starbucks Cup" was trending all day Monday, despite that cup not being from Starbucks. Some experts out there wanted to put a number on all of the free advertising for the company. PR subscriptions service Critical Mention tallied 10,627 mentions of Starbucks and Game of Thrones online and on TV and radio around the world.

Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing company Hollywood Branded, used that to estimate the value of the Starbucks buzz at $2.3 billion. Here's what Jones told CNBC:

This is a once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks. But really, this is just the tip of the iceberg, because what isn’t being monitored or estimated is the word of mouth and social media on top of this.

On that note, CNBC reported that Talkwalker counted more than 193,000 mentions pairing Starbucks and Game of Thrones on Twitter, in social forums, blogs, and news sites within 48 hours.

HBO shared a pithy statement on the coffee cup gaffe, and it has already edited out the mistake. Starbucks is apparently declining to comment. Too busy rolling in free money, perhaps.

However, as others have pointed out, the viral moment was less about Starbucks than about Game of Thrones itself. As Dan Hill, CEO of Hill Impact, put it:

The public response has more to do with the country’s ‘gotcha culture’ — picking people and brands apart — than it does the power of Starbucks.

To me, it was mostly about people getting a shock, a laugh, and/or a groan out of Game of Thrones spending so much time and money on the final season only to let a modern coffee cup steal into a scene. It's especially funny to note that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had a cameo in that post-Battle of Winterfell celebration scene. They're not in the shot with the cup, but in one of the cutaways.

Game of Thrones Season 8 only has six episodes and it did take them years to get the final season on screen. At this point, the coffee cup gaffe is getting the most buzz after Episode 4; it's sad that it was SO noticeable that it took attention away from the other major events of the episode. Blame director David Nutter?

Game of Thrones Season 8 continues with the final battle in the penultimate episode of the series, airing Sunday, May 12 at 9 p.m. on HBO. Dany vs. Cersei -- how perfect for Mother's Day! Episode 5 is meant to be even bigger than the Battle of Winterfell. It was directed by the great Miguel Sapochnik -- he of "Hardhome," "Battle of the Bastards," and "The Long Night." Hopefully fans won't notice more set errors in the final two episodes.

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.