Skip to Content

‘Game of Thrones’ Gaffe Gives Starbucks Millions in Free Advertising

Editor’s warning: This story features potential spoilers about the third and fourth episodes of this season’s Game of Thrones.

Was it product placement? A subtle endorsement of Howard Schultz’s possible presidential candidacy? Or just a high-profile screw up?

Whatever the cause, Starbucks is now a part of Game of Thrones lore, just like Ed Sheeran and Ian McShane after fans noticed the distinctive cup sitting on a table during a celebratory feast scene in Sunday’s episode.

It was only on screen for two seconds, but that was long enough. The final season of Game of Thrones was painstakingly shot over a long period of time, so any minor gaffe was likely to be magnified.

Assuming Starbucks didn’t pay for the cup to be there (something that’s hard to imagine even HBO would approve), that means the company got some pricey exposure for free. Last week’s Game of Thrones set a new HBO record for viewership (and the season premiere lured 17.4 million people). And while this week’s was unlikely to match those numbers, it still had millions of viewers.

Companies traditionally pay big for brand placement. BMW, in 1995, paid $3 million to replace James Bond’s Aston Martin with its Z3 in Goldeneye. And Heineken reportedly paid $45 million to replace Bond’s martini with a beer in Skyfall.

Of course, the Internet wasn’t about to let something like this go by without snark. Twitter has been consumed with comments since the episode went off the air.

The big unanswered question of the cup isn’t how it got into the scene, however.

It’s this: Starbucks baristas can’t spell Jon correctly most days. How terribly did they mangle Daenerys Targaryen?

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Why the next Game of Thrones book isn’t coming soon, even if it’s finished

—Why Woodstock 50 won’t happen

—How Star Trek is reaching out to a new generation

Follow Fortune on Flipboard for the latest news and analysis