By now, virtually everyone with an active social media account, whether they watch the show or not, is surely aware of the Game of Thrones coffee cup mishap from the most recent episode. Many were quick to make plenty of Starbucks jokes once the cup was spotted in a scene from The Last of the Starks. As it turns out, this equated to an insane amount of free advertising for Starbucks. And the coffee cup in question wasn't even one of theirs.
According to a new report, it's estimated that Starbucks gained as much as $2.3 billion (with a B) in free advertising as a result of the Game of Thrones mishap. This figure was arrived at by looking at data, such as mentions on TV, news platforms and social media. Once fans spotted the mistake in the episode, photos and videos began making the rounds all across sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Mass news coverage followed and, since the cup was widely attributed to Starbucks, albeit incorrectly, that resulted in a ton of free PR for the company. Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing company Hollywood Branded, had this to say about it.
"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."
HBO clarified in a statement following the incident that the Game of Thrones coffee cup actually came from a local shop in Ireland near where production was taking place at the time. The network also did their best to take the whole thing in stride, releasing a statement joking that Daenerys actually ordered an "herbal tea." Dan Hill, CEO of marketing and PR firm Hill Impact, had this to add in regards to the free advertising Starbucks received.
"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... I know people assign a value to these things, 'more than $1 million in public relations,' but I think it's all hogwash, too hard to quantify. Plus this one will live on as a meme, so I guess you could say it's a gift that will keep on giving."
Even an actual bit of product placement, something that wouldn't have made any sense in Game of Thrones in the first place (which is why this whole screw up gained so much traction), could never have garnered this much attention for Starbucks. The premium cable network has since digitally removed the coffee cup from versions of the episode streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go. Game of Thrones season 8 returns for its second-to-last episode on Sunday. This news was first reported by CNBC.