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How Stanley Cups Took the World By Storm

Stanley cups have taken over and possibly become the world’s number one cup.

Green Stanley cup laid on concrete with fall covered leaves and acorns around it
Image: Shuttershock/YalcinSonat

The Stanley 1913 brand has been around for more than a century but has become extremely popular over the years. Its signature line of humble green workaday drinkware has become a limitless array of colors, designs and collaborations that are so popular they incite near-violence.

It’s no secret that good marketing, largely to women, on social media has been behind the cups’ recent surge in popularity. The real question is why people go so crazy for something as simple as a basic cup, an item that performs just as well as any old thermo in the back of the cabinet.

People have been putting their drinks into cup-like things for all of recorded history. Why do some of us pay $45 to $55 or elbow aside fellow shoppers for the same privilege?

The thirst for Stanleys really took off in early 2022 when the product was featured in the New York Times. The New York Times called Stanley fans a “sisterhood.”

Influencers on #WaterTok, a section of TikTok where people with very plump-looking skin take hydration seriously, praised the cup as a holy grail, listing out its purported virtues: it fits in a car’s cup holder and has a straw for easy drinking, and a handle too. From there, it caught on with people most likely to succumb to targeted ads or influencer endorsements. 

CNBC estimates Stanley made over $750m last year, compared with an average of $70m a year before 2020. On social media, users show off their collections, flaunting cups in every hue.

Many have also bought accessories such as plastic “spill stoppers” that seal up straws to personalize their Stanleys. By January 2024, TikTok videos of Stanley Cups had been viewed over 201.4m times.

The key to the success is the marketing strategies. When people see a large group of celebrities following a certain trend or using a certain product, other people will want to use it, too.

Charles Lindsey, associate professor of marketing at the University of Buffalo School of Management, says ”The fear of missing out is an especially powerful psychological tool.”

Lindsey says, “And we see it affect everything from financial markets to, yes, cups.”

Another way they have gotten traction is a new color, design, or decorative additions like stickers help in sales. One of the most popular additions is collaborations.

Stanley collaborated with Starbucks, which had people fighting in stores to get one. A woman from Louisiana named Meagan Howard recalls waiting outside of a Target to get the limited edition shiny pink travel tumbler called the Starbucks x Stanley Quencher. 

She recalls running in the store, even falling to get a cup. There are videos on TikTok showing adults stampeding toward displays of Stanley Cups in Targets across the country.

The cups used to be marketed toward men, but Stanley’s global president, Terence Reilly, chose women as a new potential consumer for a brand revamp in 2020. The help of influencers on social media would help get the word out as well.

Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Chrissy Teigen have endorsed the cups.

Which ultimately worked, resulting in the popularity of the brand and a surge in sales. Stanley’s 40-ounce Quencher cup gained popularity for its candy-like array of colors and its ability to keep beverages hot and cold for long periods of time.

The single most redeeming quality of a Stanley is that it is reusable, meaning fewer people are throwing out non-reusable water bottles. Another one is that ”it won’t break”, it is supposed to be durable through anything.

That network of trust and recommendation, Lindsey says, creates buzz. “People see people whose tastes they trust trying something new, and that item becomes a symbol of social status and being ‘in the know.’”

There is also an instance where a woman made a post about her car catching on fire, and her Stanley Cup was the only item that made it out of the crash.

Terrence Reilly not only offered to send her more cups but also to replace her car. As he saw, her post showed how durable the cup was.

It’s never just a cup. It’s the cup. It’s a favorite cup, a new cup, a go-to cup, the cup everyone is jealous of, the cup that will solve all of life’s problems and get us closer to our dreams.

There are many factors that have contributed to the success of the Stanley Cup. No matter what they are, everyone loves them and will continue to buy them.

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If you can tell a good story you can change the world.

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