NBC’s Rogue Sochi Starbucks

They really love their Starbucks at NBC--and not just on "Morning Joe."


They really love their Starbucks at NBC–and not just on “Morning Joe.”

WSJ (“Here’s the Skinny on NBC’s Olympic Latte Secret”):

Starbucks isn’t an Olympic sponsor and is therefore forbidden to have an official presence here. The nearest Starbucks is about 350 miles away by car in a little-known city called Rostov-on-Don. The only branded coffee player is supposed to be McDonald’s Corp., which has been gaining grounds globally with its McCafé outlets. Olympic sponsors such as McDonald’s usually defend their turf more fiercely than a Team Canada goalie.

But after Mr. Glinton, a journalist for NPR, trailed the mystery cup for several hundred feet, its owner told him that he was out of luck. It came from the “office,” she said—the Olympic broadcasting center where NBC has its own secret Starbucks.

The media giant, which paid $775 million for exclusive U.S. broadcasting rights for the Games, has erected the Sochi Starbucks in its cordoned-off area of the Olympic media center. Baristas serve the free java 24-hours-a-day to the roughly 2,500 people NBC says it sent here.

Bringing in the joe is a delicate exercise. NBC flies in a rotating crew of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, sets them up with accommodations in Sochi, and pays their regular wages. As with past Games, Starbucks has gladly cooperated with the effort.

All told, the barista battalion is larger than the Sochi Olympic teams of some 57 countries.

Now, I like coffee as much as the next guy. And, unlike some coffee snobs, I like Starbucks just fine. But it’s not that hard to make coffee. Then again, they’re not actually serving coffee:

Though it looks like a normal outpost, the private kiosk doesn’t offer the full Starbucks menu. It indulges drinkers with an array of specialty espresso and chai drinks—but no plain black coffee.

That’s just not right.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mantis says:

    Then again, they’re not actually serving coffee:

    Espresso is coffee. It’s a far better way of preparing coffee than any automated drip machine, which is the worst method.

    If you can make espresso, you can make an Americano, a superior cup of black coffee.

  2. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I’m a coffee junkie. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, so it’s my drug of choice.

    Black strong, no sugar, or other fru-fru stuff.

    And ,like any good junkie, I have found a way to get my fix cheap. So for the rest of us who cannot afford to fly in baristas, read on:


    Here is the way that I enjoy my Starbucks, without paying astronomical $$$

    1) Buy your Starbucks at the grocery store by the bag, and look for the sales. You can get a bag of coffee for about $6-$7

    2) Invest in a decent coffee maker. If you want to go cheap, buy a French Press. Or pick up a Delonghi Magnifica on craigslist. (I went that route, as I like my beans ground and then have choices for my coffee from espresso to “regular” Americano. Take advantage of the 1% that does not know hat to do with it after they bought it.)

    Now here’s where it gets better…

    3) Each empty bag of coffee can be exchanged for a free cup of coffee in any Starbucks.

    If you consider a Starbucks coffee is about $2.50, you just dropped your bag cost (back in #1) down to less than $5.00

    4) But wait, there is a sticker on that bag that will qualify you for a “star”.

    5) Buy a Starbucks prepaid card for about $10.00 … register it, and start turning those bag stickers into their loyalty program stars.


    6) Once you get 10 stars, you get free refills. (I didn’t say you actually had to spend that $10.00 that you put on the card)

    So, you drop in to use some Wi-Fi, slam three cups, walk out the door without spending dollar one.

    7) Of course, the registered card gets you free coffee on your birthday, and deals on upscale drinks as well (50% off, 2-for-1’s, “extra” stars)

    8) when you hit 30 stars per year (not a problem for a true caffeine hound) then they start giving even more free stuff.

    I haven’t spent a buck in a Starbucks in ages.


    Sure… This is a miserly approach. But like I said, I don’t drink, or smoke, so that is why I have the Porsche in the driveway. My disposable income tends to go to things that go fast.

    Making sure that I can afford the maintenance means not wasting my $$$ on coffee when it’s available free.

  3. ernieyeball says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Your strategy to score free mud reads like a legal immigration flow chart!
    StarBucks has great coffee…so does Mickey D’s!
    Locally the Senior Swill is 50cents. I have found it as cheap as 27cents at the Golden Arches in Guymon OK and Nachitoches LA. Always free refills. Don’t know how widespread the promotion was but last month here in Sleepytown McDonald’s Coffee was Stone Free for a week!
    Feburary is Black History Month
    On December 21, 1968, Herman Petty of Chicago opened the first black owned McDonald’s franchise.

  4. john personna says:

    So the “pour over,” that expensive rebranding of the cheap Melitta cone, has not yet made Russian (or NBC) trendiness?

    Happy here with my trusty cone, now a pour over.

    (An Americano is a waste of a good espresso.)

  5. J-Dub says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: If I drank that much coffee I would need a Porsche to get from toilet to toilet as quickly as possible.