SPOILER ALERT: Starbucks Wins the Iron Throne
On Sunday, the fourth episode of the highly anticipated last season of the HBO fantasy epic series, “Game of Thrones” debuted, and Starbucks ended up stealing the show. Fans spotted a misplaced Starbucks cup in a supposed-to-be quick frame of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) at a celebratory party in Winterfell. The cup has since been quietly edited out of the episode, but not before Twitter erupted in viral memes, pictures, and videos of the clip. So viral, that even the official GOT account acknowledged the mess-up by joining in on the fun.
Days later, it turned out that the cup came from the production staff’s craft services and not from Starbucks at all. But because their branding is so recognizable, the coffee chain ended up gaining $2.3 billion in free advertising. Although this number does not include word-of-mouth or untraceable social media conversations happening all over the web, an analytics platform, Talkwalker, did count more than 193,000 mentions of both Starbucks and “Game of Thrones” on social media, website forums, and online news articles in less than 48 hours.
The product placement stood out because of the absolute dissonance of a modern-day coffee cup being anywhere near Winterfell. These people literally drink out of Viking horns… there is definitely no Starbucks in sight. A product placement in this show would cost upwards of six figures, but HBO however, is not ad-supported and does not even allow advertisers to pay for that kind of promotion. This type of free publicity is next to impossible for any media or advertising company to ever reproduce organically. Starbucks handled the once-in-a-lifetime collision perfectly, using the opportunity to announce their summer drink…Genius.