|June 2001 U.S. Edition|
Harry Potter isnt just about magic. It is magic. The best-selling books have done more to transform millions of children into enthusiastic readers than any well-intentioned effort by anyone, anywhere. They havent just torn kids away from television and video games. Theyve worked miracles for slow or reluctant readers and for children whose lives need a lift from Harrys pluck and spirit. If anyone deserves to be called a hero, it is Harry Potter and author J.K. Rowling.
Thats why it is so distressing that the Coca-Cola Company has bought, for $150 million, sole worldwide marketing rights to the first Harry Potter filmHarry Potter and the Sorcerers Stonewhich Warner Bros. will release in November. (Coke has also signed on for the sequel.) Yes, Virginia, poor Harry has been sold.
To her credit, Rowling has not allowed typical fast-food tie-ins and product placements (so Harry wont be drinking Coke in the movie). Harry also wont appear in Coke commercials (though hell be ubiquitous on Coke packaging). And Coca-Cola says that it will finance reading initiatives for children. But the bottom line is selling more liquid candy. According to Cokes and Warner Bros. PR departments, the deal will center on helping people discover the magical world of their imaginations through reading while reinforcing the core values and attributes shared by Harry Potter and Coca-Cola. Like profits, decayed teeth, and big bellies?
Ironically, it was only a couple of months ago that Coca-Cola (and PepsiCo) drew kudos for agreeing to tone down their marketing in schools. But, simultaneously, Coke is revving up a bevy of huge marketing campaigns besides Harrys:
To target younger children, Coke has announced a global agreement with Disney to market healthful vitamin-enriched drinks using Disney characters like Mickey Mouse. Most of those products are basically water, sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of juice, plus colorings and added vitamins.
Coke is targeting teenagers with a year-long endorsement from popular singer Christina Aguilera. (Not to be outdone, new Pepsi ads feature pop singer Britney Spears.)
To reach young adults, Diet Coke has a new fleet of commercials featuring the voices of celebrities. As The Wall Street Journal put it: New Diet Coke Campaign Plays Up Sex. The paper also said that Coca-Cola plans to spend as much as $500 million more than originally planned this year on marketing.
Soda companies, desperate because their sales increased by just 0.2 percent last year, are doing everything they can to increase consumption. With Harry Potters magic on board, their job just got a whole lot easier.