Thanks to Game of Thrones‘ social media dominating coffee cup gaffe, Starbucks received free advertising worth an estimated $2.3 billion. Last Sunday’s GoT episode was supposed to be all about setting up the final confrontation between Daenerys’ army and the forces of Cersei Lannister, but all anyone could talk about afterward was a conspicuous gaffe in which a cup of what appeared to be Starbucks coffee was left out on a table during a scene at Winterfell.
Because Game of Thrones happens in an imagined fantasy world based loosely on medieval Britain, the presence of a modern day coffee cup was puzzling to say the least. Social media became so enthralled by the errant cup that HBO felt compelled to address the mistake, noting that the cup was not in fact coffee but herbal tea. Though early news reports consistently identified the cup in question as a Starbucks cup, it later emerged that the cup in fact came from craft services and not the ubiquitous coffee house chain.
Whether Starbucks actually received $2.3 billion in free publicity from Game of Thrones and that pesky cup, there’s no doubt the company benefited greatly from social media rushing to attach the company’s name to the gaffe seen around the world. Product placement is of course a major thing in movies and on television, but this is one instance where imagined product placement actually proved more lucrative than any deliberate deal could have hoped to be. Hopefully, Game of Thrones won’t have any more gaffes in store for fans as it wraps up its run with two final episodes.