Coffee Cup in 'Game of Thrones' Got Starbucks $2 Billion in Free Advertising

May 10, 2019
Starbucks Cup

Daniel Berehulak / Staff / Getty Images

By Scott Gelman

The coffee cup that appeared in last weekend’s “Game of Thrones” episode provided Starbucks with more than $2 billion in free advertising.

As of Wednesday night, one marketing agency estimates Starbucks secured $2.458 billion in free advertising and has been mentioned with “Game of Thrones” more than 12,000 times.

When viewers recognized the cup in Sunday’s episode, many speculated it was a Starbucks drink. HBO said the cup’s placement in the episode was a mistake and edited it out immediately. Still, that didn’t stop “Game of Thrones” fans from discussing it.

Fees for product placement range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars based on a film, the number of episodes of a show and audience size, said Stacy Jones, CEO of California-based marketing company Hollywood Branded. But HBO doesn’t accept cash in exchange for promoting a product, making the Starbucks exposure that much more valuable.

(Related: 'Game of Thrones' Spoiler Alert: New Shocking Plot Twist)

“It is unheard of to have had this happen,” Jones said in an email to The Drive. “This is a once in a lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks.”

Sunday’s episode reached 81.9 million people in the U.S., resulting in $6 million of free ads. Jones said the advertising they received is “worth more money, and reaching a wider audience, than they will ever be able to secure through PR again.”

Starbucks isn’t known for their involvement in paid product placement, Jones said, instead focusing on providing free coffee that is featured based on relationships.

(Related: 'Game of Thrones' Star Emilia Clarke: Episode 5 Will Be Bigger Than Epic Battle of Winterfell)

And the free advertising came without anyone having to buy a Starbucks coffee. The cup in the show wasn’t even from Starbucks.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake,” the “Game of Thrones” Twitter account shared. “Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”

Starbucks used the opportunity to promote its Dragon Drink.

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