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.”
Read more: Fans spotted a coffee cup sitting on a table during a new ‘Game of Thrones’ feast scene
However, the cardboard takeaway cup has become so synonymous with the Seattle-based coffee chain that everyone just (wrongly) assumed that it was theirs.
The scale of the fantasy series and the virality of the anachronistic cup are such that experts say Starbucks has earned millions in free publicity.
Stacy Jones, CEO of marketing company Hollywood Branded, put the estimated value of all the buzz at $2.3 billion. Jones cited PR subscriptions service Critical Mention, which has tallied 10,627 mentions of Starbucks and ‘Game of Thrones’ online and on TV and radio around the world.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime collision of opportunity for Starbucks,” she said. “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.”
Separately, social media analytics and monitoring platform Talkwalker counted more than 193,000 mentions within 48 hours that cited both Starbucks and “Game of Thrones,” or a variation of the series’ hashtag, on Twitter, in social forums, blogs and news sites.
Starbucks declined to comment.
Stacy Jones, the CEO of the 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 its 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 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.”