Starbucks cameo in Game of Thrones? Did we miss a silent ad strategy?

May 13, 2019
by Agam Chaudhary

In the fourth episode of Game of thrones’ latest season, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), mother of dragons and breaker of chains was seen with a Starbucks’ cuppa on her table in Winterfell. Surely, a long night of fighting zombies can make anyone crave for some good ol’ latte. Dany’s choice of beverage sure beats the wines of Dorne and even Tormund’s Giant’s milk.

The infamous cup sitting like a madlad on Dany’s table

A silent strategy or a just a blunder?

Many are speculating whether Starbucks and D&D struck a deal under the table or someone on the set did an oopsie. On a show as big as Game of Thrones, massive mishaps like these seem unlikely, but it was later clarified that it indeed was a mistake. HBO acknowledged the mishap with a cheeky enough tweet and digitally removed the cup from future airings of the episode. On the other hand, Starbucks benefitted exponentially from this unintentional product placement. The funny thing was that the cup was not even from Starbucks but a local coffee shop in Northern Ireland, as confirmed by Hauke Richter. Fans and experts alike assumed that the cup was of Starbucks because of the brand’s solid image and vast popularity.  

A symbolic representation of Liam Cunningham and Sophie Turner blaming Emilia Clarke

Who’s to blame?

Controversy surrounded Dany as the cup was placed directly in front of her, and people assumed her to be the caffeine-junkie responsible for one of the biggest continuity errors in television history. Even Emilia’s co-stars Sophie Turner and Liam Cunningham blamed her for the mishap. Yet, Daenerys Stormborn actually investigated and found out how the cup was left on the table. When her late husband, Khalo Drogo (Jason Momoa), visited them on the set to have hung out with his old colleagues and have a cup of coffee with them, Dany was so thrown-off that she forgot about the coffee cup lying on the table. In the end, Sophie and Liam had the right of it, the culprit really was the mother of dragons.

A win-win for Starbucks

The whole situation resulted in a flood of memes on social media. For ardent fans, this cup of coffee acted as a cup of petrol which fuelled the fire ignited by a series of disappointing episodes. They took this mistake as a sign of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ lack of professionalism and poured their wrath on social media. On the other hand, many fans resorted to making and sharing a ton of memes. All this buzz on social media greatly benefitted Starbucks, who didn’t invest a dime but still got over a million dollar worth of advertising. Considering they did not pay anything and even the cup featured was not theirs, Starbucks really struck gold with this small mistake by Emilia Clarke. And they were able to capitalize on this opportunity only because of their stronghold on the market.

The world witnessed a great marketing campaign that was never supposed to be. On the surface, it was just memes but behind all the drama, Starbucks’ visibility tripled on social media platforms. This incident showed us the power of digital marketing and social media. Digitalabs might not be able to slip in your product in Game of Thrones, but it can certainly shake things for your brand with the right campaign on all the right platforms.


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