How The Starbucks NFT Program Celebrated The Holidays and Transitioned to 2024
Historically speaking, Starbucks has always taken the holiday season pretty seriously. It is a brand known to never miss a major holiday event and almost always launches a themed campaign to go with it. As 2023 came to a close, the coffee chain extended its celebratory traditions to include its Web3 community and platform, Starbucks Odyssey.
By Sophie Waldman
Published: February 1, 2024
7 min read
The platform first launched for beta testers who had an existing Starbucks Rewards account in December 2022. Users were invited to participate in interactive activities called “Journeys” to earn collectible “Stamps” (the Starbucks version of NFTs). Journey completion and Stamp possession accrued to Starbucks Odyssey program participants in the form of points that, in turn, afforded those participants with claimable experiences and tiered benefits. The more Journeys that a user completed, and the more Stamps they possessed, the greater number of points they accumulated. The more points they accumulated, the better the benefits.
After the first few months of the program, the Journeys went from general Starbucks-branded experiences to more trendy and holiday-themed activities. The fall and winter seasons proved to be busy and full of festivities, starting with National Coffee Day in September.
On September 28th, the Odyssey program sent (airdropped) a free Stamp (pictured below) designed by the notable artist, Vinnie Hager, to all accounts that completed at least two Journeys by September 27th. The airdropped Stamp was worth 100 points and was ultimately a reward to those who have been actively engaged in the Odyssey program.
Following the Stamp airdrop, Vinnie joined the Odyssey Discord for an episode of “Conversations Over Coffee” on October 3rd to share his inspiration behind the Stamp and Journey as an artist. Those who joined the chat also had a chance to earn Beans for the additional level of engagement. The more Beans a user accumulates each month through a variety of Discord-based engagements, the better their chance of winning a sweepstakes held at the end of each month (after which, every member’s Bean accumulation is reset to zero).
The National Coffee Day celebration continued with a special live event from the Starbucks Reserve. Grey Breyson, a ten-year Starbucks Coffee Master, led an educational session on coffee growing and brewing methods that took place through Meetup.com’s’s virtual meetup platform.
On October 5th, Starbucks honored 20 years of the iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) with an open-edition mint. This collection consisted of four different editions of NFTs inspired by some of the different real-world versions of the PSL drink – Steamed, Whipped, Iced, and Spiced.
Each user could purchase up to four Stamps for US$20 each through the Starbucks Odyssey Market, a private-labeled version of Nifty Gateway that includes a custodial wallet service and makes it possible for program participants to transact for NFTs in US dollars instead of the typical cryptocurrency. When NFTs are sold directly by Starbucks (known as a “primary market sale”), US dollars are the only form of payment allowed by using a credit card; a Klarna-powered “buy now, pay later” feature, or the user’s Nifty Gateway balance. Both fiat currency and cryptocurrency are allowed as forms of payment for sales between users (known as “secondary market sales”). Regardless of how a user came into possession of one of these PSL Stamps (primary or secondary market sale), the holder gets 250 points per Stamp held. When Odyssey users sell their Stamps to other users, the point values of those stamps are relinquished and transferred to the new holder.
Upon buying any NFTs in the PSL Collection, users were given the notice, “If you choose to purchase all four designs, an opportunity awaits you on the other side.”
This alluded to a possible burn or upgrade-like process with the NFTs, where users could “combine” multiple assets into a single Stamp by burning the four Stamps in exchange for the right to mint a single, potentially more collectible Stamp. This is a common move utilized with on-chain collections but isn’t often seen with Web2.5 approaches like the Starbucks Odyssey program.
Since users had a choice as to which of the original PSL editions they wanted to buy (mint), Odyssey announced the “Blend and Roast” (burn and mint) option on October 14th. This event invited anyone who minted each of the four different PSL Collection NFTs to burn them in exchange for an upgraded “Venti Stamp.” This meant that minters would lose those four NFTs from their wallets and receive the Venti Stamp, which was more exclusive (lower supply) and included 500 extra points.
As evidence of the unpredictable tokenomics that coincide with global brand NFT programs, the Venti Stamp had about 1,100 mints and interestingly enough, was for sale at a lower floor price than the un-burned Whipped edition NFT at the time of writing. Theoretically, none of the original PSL Stamps should have been worth more than the Venti stamp. Even though none of the Stamps are promoted as investments, there were undoubtedly some Odyssey participants who were disappointed to learn that one of the Stamps they traded in was still worth more than the Stamp they got in return.
At the time of publication, the floor price of the Starbucks Odyssey Whipped PSL Stamp was $125. Meanwhile, the value of the Venti PSL Stamp was only $85. The Whipped Stamp was one of four PSL Stamps that had a combined value of $362 and that had to be traded in(burned) to receive the $85-valued Venti PSL Stamp. However, users who opted for the trade also retained the point values (250 points each) of the four original Stamps and earned an additional 500 points. But all of those points and any others that were accumulated in 2023 were automatically sacrificed at the beginning of 2024.
Since the Pumpkin Spice Latte is so iconic to the Starbucks brand, Starbucks used the occasion of the PSL’s birthday to launch the Odyssey program's first metaverse birthday party. The event kicked off on the PSL’s actual birthday, October 10th, and remained open until Halloween. Users could explore a virtual town square, interact with other members of the program, and play a game to collect as many PSL ingredients as possible in a set amount of time.
The metaverse event was token-gated, meaning holders had to own at least one Stamp of any kind to enter the digital environment. The virtual space was accessible on desktop and mobile, making it super seamless for all users to participate.
It was only necessary to participate in this activity to complete the “20 Years of PSL Journey,” which drove a ton of users to the site within the first couple of minutes. As a user who had only this step left in completing the Journey, I played the game at the exact time that the experience opened. After playing the game, it appeared that I qualified as the 240th to complete it, based on the Stamp number I received.
Once the PSL festivities settled down, Starbucks Odyssey welcomed the month of November with World Kindness Day on November 13th. Members were able to send positive-minded digital cards to friends and family and partake in a mobile augmented reality (AR) experience.
Although this activity was available to all Starbucks fans – including those outside of the Odyssey program – many Odyssey members expected that their participation would somehow be rewarded through the program. Although that was not the case, the Odyssey team still promoted that more than 100 acts of kindness (and over 1,000 reactions to those acts) were shared on World Kindness Day through the Starbucks Odyssey Discord (alluding to the fact that the Odyssey community embraced and supported the idea of kindness).
As the end of the year was closely approaching, many members began asking if there would be another limited-edition drop before 2024. Instead, the team announced that the program would celebrate the program’s first year with a “token of appreciation” to users for participating and beta-testing the Starbucks Odyssey program. This appreciation took place in the form of “The Holiday Cup Stamp Collection” – which was a free Stamp that participants could claim in honor of the Starbucks annual holiday cup.
Since 1997, Starbucks has celebrated the start of the holiday and winter season with a festively decorated cup design. The brand brought this experience to Odyssey with the free Holiday Cup Stamps that featured animated generative art and included 500 points for those who secured the Stamp.
The collection was facilitated as a claim, not an airdrop, which meant members had to go onto the platform and claim their Stamp to receive it. This strategy enticed more members to claim the Stamp than the supply could fulfill, driving scarcity and a deeper appreciation for those who were most active and paying attention to this first-come, first-served part of the program.
The claim happened on November 15th for qualifying members who completed at least three Journeys by November 13th. The mint took place on the Odyssey Market in a similar format to the other Stamp mints – minus the cost to mint. The entire supply of the Stamps had been claimed within the first 24 hours of mint. According to the Marketplace at the time of publication, these free NFTs have accumulated over $41,000 in secondary market sales volume.
As 2023 came to a close, Starbucks thanked the participants of the Odyssey program by gifting them with a “Starbucks Odyssey Achievement Collection.” Since every Odyssey member’s points were planned for a reset to zero at the end of the year, the brand wanted to start off 2024 with some free points based on each member’s level of program engagement in 2023.
The Achievement Collection Stamps were sent to all members as a free airdrop. The Stamp art and points varied on the amount of points the member had in their account on December 31st, across five levels from 100 to 1,500 points. The airdrop was sent on January 4th to provide the first points for members in 2024 and share a badge of participation in the very early stages of Starbucks Odyssey. A close look at the Stamps below shows how each Stamp corresponded to each of the five different point levels and how – as the level increased from 1-5 – the number of editions minted declined (in other words, increasing scarcity) and the floor price increased. Whereas 46,811 Stamps were issued for Level 1, only 367 were issued for Level 5.