Starbucks did not pay for one of its iconic coffee cups to be surreptitiously left in a scene of “Game of Thrones.”
On Monday, HBO confirmed to INSIDER that the rogue coffee spotted in a scene of the eighth season’s fourth episode, “The Last of the Starks,” was from the set’s craft services, which serves drinks and food to the cast and crew.
The television network also joked that the latte that appeared on the episode was a mistake: “Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”
However, the cardboard takeaway cup has become so synonymous with the Seattle-born coffee chain that everyone just (wrongly) assumed that it was theirs.
Such is the scale of the fantasy series and the virality of the anachronistic cup that experts say Starbucks has earned millions in free publicity.
Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing agency Hollywood Branded, which specializes in product placement, told INSIDER that Starbucks would’ve had to pay $250,000 to $1 million for one of their containers to be gratuitously left in front of the Mother of Dragons.
“If we were looking at this in the grand scheme of things and we were comparing ‘Game of Thrones’ to the other largest-watched content out there … you’re looking at the $250,000 to $1 million range for product placement where that product was positioned with a very central character,” Jones said.
However, she stipulated that HBO “doesn’t take dollars” from advertisers in its content because its customers are paying to subscribe for an ad-free experience: “They [HBO] believe their audience should not pay for their content as well as have brands feature that are paying to be in their content.”
Despite the fact that Starbucks couldn’t have even paid HBO for the cup placement if they wanted to, Jones said the publicity value for the coffee company was enormous.
“The total audience that’s talking about this – we’re surpassing 100 million people probably and it’s all over the world,” Jones said.
“The entire world right now is talking about Starbucks and ‘Game of Thrones,’ which is crazy! That doesn’t happen for a brand.”
On Monday, Apex Marketing Group Inc. told MarketWatch that the anachronistic cup could be worth in the region of $11.6 million, but Jones says this figure has likely “tripled, quadrupled, or grown by five times since then.”
“The publicity value is going into the tens of millions,” she said, adding: “It doesn’t matter, at all [that the coffee isn’t actually from Starbucks].”
Jones said that it was a testament to the coffee chain’s branding that everyone just assumes any coffee cup – “even if it’s dark and blurry” – is going to be from Starbucks.
HBO didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
A Twitter spokeswoman told MarketWatch that Starbucks tweets were running at 10 times their average hourly tweets on Monday morning.
“There have been more than 310,000 tweets today, and I’d say on an average normal day there are usually less than 100,000 tweets,” she said.
When contacted by Business Insider, Starbucks referred us to their earlier statement, which read: “TBH we’re surprised she didn’t order a Dragon Drink.”
The pink beverage Starbucks is referring to is a “tropical-inspired pick-me-up [that] is crafted with a refreshing combination of sweet mango and dragon fruit flavors,” according to the company’s website.
“Thrones” executive producer Bernie Caulfield apologized for the blooper on WNYC on Monday, jokingly adding: “Westeros was the first place to actually, you know, have Starbucks.”
Meanwhile, production designer Hauke Richter told Variety that “things can get forgotten on set,” and that the anachronistic coffee was getting “blown out of proportion [because] it has not happened with ‘Thrones’ so far.”
For more background moments like this you might have missed, read our breakdown of 12 details from Sunday’s “Game of Thrones.”
TBH we’re surprised she didn’t order a Dragon Drink.
– Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) May 6, 2019