Harry Potter and the Soft-Drink Sellout

Article excerpt

"Harry Potter" isn't 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 haven't just torn kids away from television and video games. They've worked miracles for "slow" or reluctant readers and for children whose lives need a lift from Harry's pluck and spirit. If anyone deserves to be called a hero, it is Harry Potter and author J.K. Rowling.

That's why it is so distressing that the Coca-Cola Company has bought, for $150 million, sole worldwide marketing rights to the first Harry Potter film--"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"--which 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 (sc) Harry won't be drinking Coke in the movie). Harry also won't appear in Coke commercials (though he'll 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 Coke's 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. …