Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, The Last Stark, will long be remembered for one thing that has nothing to do with who will end up on the Iron Throne or how the battle with Cersi will go. No, this episode will be remembered for a Starbucks cup. That’s right, it turns out that Winterfell has its own Starbucks. How else could you explain the cup sitting in the foreground of a shot next to Daenerys Targaryen? How indeed?
This got me thinking about a conspiracy theory making the rounds about the recent Sonic The Hedgehog film. There are many people out there who believe the trailer we saw featured a purposefully bad Sonic The Hedgehog. The idea is that the real CGI is actually already done, but the film is mediocre at best. So, to get the fans emotionally invested, they gave them the ultimate fan service by letting them have an actual say in the main character’s design. In theory, this would give the studio enough initial support to at least make their money back. The argument for this theory is that the money and time involved in re-animating the main character of a film with just five months to go before release would be time and cost prohibitive. There’s also the question of whether or not the merchandising (especially action figures) can be corrected at this point or if you’d be stuck with toys based on designs people hate or if they could course correct with the updated designs. That means new molds and everything else that entails. In reality, that theory is probably not true, but most conspiracy theories aren’t true.
That brings us back to last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. These episodes are some of the most expensive single episodes ever filmed for TV. The show works hard to maintain the realism of their environment and the continuity of their production. For the Starbucks cup to make it through production, editing, and final approvals seems statistically improbable. So, what if it wasn’t an accident?
My theory is that is was not an accident, but a brilliant bit of PR/ product placement. For the next several days, fans will be propagating the internet with memes that feature both Starbucks and Game of Thrones. Some of the memes will be mocking, but not in a way that would come close to damaging either brand. This is potentially the best example of product placement and subversive marketing that we’ve ever seen. Or, someone just left a cup on a table.
In case you missed it, here’s a video from ET that shows the scene in question: