Warner Bros Conjures up Coke as Harry Potter Promo Partner

20 February 2001

The Warner Bros movie studio, part of AOL Time Warner, will today unveil a multi-million exclusive promotional deal with Coca-Cola for the film based on kids’ publishing phenomenon Harry Potter.

Although financial details have not yet been disclosed, Coke is expected to pour around $150 million into the project – one of its biggest ever marketing efforts – in order to become the studio’s sole promotional partner for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “This is the biggest thing we're going to do over the next couple of years,” boasted Coke’s senior vp and chief marketing officer Steve Jones, adding that it would match the “order of magnitude” of the company’s involvement at the Sydney Olympics.

However, this promises to be no ordinary campaign. Potter’s creator, the British author JK Rowling, has made it clear that she wants to avoid over-commercialisation of her characters.

Out go the ubiquitous giveaway figurines and tie-ins with fast food chains. “It’s something that has been done over and over again,” explained Brad Ball, Warner Bros’ president of domestic marketing. “Packaging [Harry Potter] with a meal combo would have taken away from her [Rowling’s] philosophy.” As would product placement in the movie: “You won’t see Harry drinking from a can of Coke,” promised Steve Jones.

Instead, Coke will take a more altruistic approach to marketing, sponsoring a Potter-themed literacy and reading campaign in local communities, possibly involving bookmobiles and book donations, to be launched in the summer.

Coke may also underwrite a program whereby purchasers of its Hi-C and Minute Maid brands receive coupons redeemable for selected books. A global scheme of donating books to libraries is also on the cards.

Some things, however, don’t change – Harry Potter-related images will appear on cans of Coke, Hi-C and Minute Maid, while Potter displays will spring up in supermarkets and other point-of-sale areas.

The campaign will be subject to Coke’s new ‘glocal’ strategy –Atlanta HQ will design marketing templates for the program, which will be left to local marketers to implement however they choose.

It also fits with Coke chairman Douglas Daft’s aim to portray the company as a responsible corporate citizen involved in people’s everyday lives. He will also be hoping that the astounding popularity of Potter will give Coke a much-needed marketing boost following a three-year slump in sales.

News source: Wall Street Journal