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Originally published June 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 1, 2009 at 9:11 AM

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Starbucks pays for product placement on MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

Starbucks is becoming a naming sponsor of "Morning Joe," in what is the closest integration between an advertiser and a news program in recent memory.

The hosts of the "Morning Joe" show on MSNBC seemingly drink Starbucks every day. Joe Scarborough, the show's namesake and co-host, sips Frappuccinos on camera so often that some viewers have wondered whether it is a form of product placement, paid for by the coffee company.

Starting today, it will be.

Starbucks is becoming a naming sponsor of "Morning Joe," in what is the closest integration between an advertiser and a news program in recent memory.

Hearkening back to the "Camel News Caravan," an NBC news roundup sponsored by a cigarette maker in the 1950s, graphics and voice-overs will tell viewers "Morning Joe" is "brewed by Starbucks."

Referring to the taste for Starbucks by Scarborough, MSNBC President Phil Griffin joked, "We've been doing this for free for a couple of years."

Along with several Starbucks graphics and mentions during each hour of the 6 to 9 a.m. show, Griffin indicated other possible pairings in the future.

The show and Starbucks may team up on charitable initiatives. And the show may be broadcast from Starbucks locations when it travels, as it did last year for the political conventions and the inauguration. The deal also includes promotions on MSNBC.com.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the deal indicated that "the rules of engagement in marketing and advertising have changed quite significantly." He called it an opportunity to "align ourselves with, in my view, one of the smartest morning shows that air on TV."

One executive with knowledge of the deal said Starbucks would be paying more than $10 million.

Griffin said "Morning Joe" would continue to cover Starbucks as a news item if warranted. "They understand that we have standards."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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