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Harry Potter casts marketing spell

The Baby Norbert dragon doll is one of hundreds of Harry Potter products on sale  

By CNN's Becky Anderson

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first Harry Potter movie makes its world premier in London on Sunday, but children aren't the only ones eagerly awaiting the release.

Many companies are hoping the film will have a magical effect on their revenues. For them, the power of Potter lies in the merchandising.

"J.K. Rowling's great successes in terms of writing Harry Potter was she tapped into mainstream thinking and mainstream culture," says Chris Nurko, managing director of FutureBrand in London.

"If you look at the book, she's actually integrated branding and marketing into her characters and her story line. For example, the Nimbus 2000, it's not just an everyday ordinary flying broom, it's a Nimbus 2000." And organisations are willing to spend a small fortune to be part of the Potter phenomenon.

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Coca-Cola is estimated to have paid $150 million to associate itself with the fictional schoolboy wizard -- more than the film cost to make.

Toy makers Mattel and Lego are others who have invested heavily in the schoolboy star, giving Warner Bros. -- which owns the franchise -- a lucrative asset. AOL Time Warner is the parent company of both Warner Bros. and CNN.

With nearly 500 toys and gimmicks already in the stores, is the magic being stretched too far? The creator of the official Harry Potter computer game thinks not.

"A lot of licenced properties get overexploited to the point where the public just have enough of it. And I think Miss Rowling has been very careful to not to allow that to happen," says Bruce McMillan, senior vice president of EA.

Careful or not, the Potter craze appears to know no bounds, with the buying public snapping up anything from dolls and puzzles to castles, broomsticks and do-it-yourself magic.

"Harry Potter is a fantasy story, and a lot of things that happen in it are literally magical. So it is really difficult for toy manufacturers and inventors to find ways of reproducing that magic in toy products," says Simon Burke, chairman of Hamley's toy store in London.

A Harry Potter doll  

"So I guess in a range like this you have things which go from the mundane to things which actually capture some of the magical quality of the original books."

Britain itself is looking to cash in on the locations featured in the adventures of the schoolboy hero.

The teenage wizard's world is a fantasy -- and a peculiarly British one at that. And the British Tourist Authority is keen to take advantage of the ready-made fan base.

Hype, hysteria and a marketing blitz -- all are potent ingredients in the spell Harry Potter looks set to cast over the upcoming holiday season.


• Harry Potter movie home page

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