Global Campaign Protests Coca-Cola’s Use of ‘Harry Potter’ to Market Junk Food
Save Harry Potter
WASHINGTON, DC - The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), along with more than 40 cosponsoring organizations in a dozen countries, has launched a campaign —save Harry Potter — aimed at ending Coca-Cola’s use of “Harry Potter” to market junk food to kids.
Coca-Cola reportedly paid Warner Brothers (a unit of AOL Time Warner) $150 million for the exclusive global marketing rights to the first “Harry Potter” movie and possibly the sequels. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” will open in the U.S. and many other countries in mid-November.
Coca-Cola is aggressively marketing to children by featuring “Harry Potter” imagery on packages and in advertising for its carbonated (Coca-Cola, Minute Maid, and other brands) and noncarbonated (Hi-C, Minute Maid) soft drinks. Coke’s “Potter” promotion, called “Live The Magic.” also uses contests, games, and a web site to entice kids to drink more soft drinks.
“Children and adults worldwide are outraged that their beloved ‘Harry Potter’ is being used to market ‘liquid candy’ to kids.” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI. “Over-consumption of Coca-Cola and other sugar-laden soft drinks contributes to obesity and diabetes, reduced nutrient intake, and tooth decay.”
The campaign’s web site, save Harry Potter, enables people to send an e-mail urging J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” books, to end the deal with Coca-Cola and to donate the royalties she already has received to fund nutrition campaigns.
The movie won’t include product placements and Coca-Cola says that its marketing program includes a literacy campaign. But, “the bottom line is that an adored literary phenomenon is being put to work to sell more junk food.” said save Harry Potter organizer Jacobson.
Coca-Cola’s “Harry Potter” advertising is about selling soft drinks, not books, according to Jacobson. “Coca-Cola points to its 3-year, $18 million donation to Reading is Fundamental as if that were the major element of its ‘Harry Potter’ licensing agreement. That ignores the $150 million it paid to lure ‘Harry Potter’ fans with owls and castles on its soft drinks. Coca-Cola’s strategy — to talk about reading while selling soda pop — is legerdemain of the highest order.”
Dr. Patience White, professor of medicine and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical Center, said, “It is outrageous that Coca-Cola is using the magic of ‘Harry Potter’ to lure kids to drink more soda pop. Consumption of soft drinks has soared over the past two decades, contributing to the doubling in the percentage of obese teenagers. That obesity epidemic is fueling a diabetes epidemic.”
Wesley F., a 10-year-old boy from Bethesda, Maryland, said, “I do not like the idea that Coke might be using Harry Potter to sell its soft drinks. If kids see ‘Harry Potter’ logos — like owls or Hogwarts Castle — on Coke, they might buy more Cokes and drink too much. And drinking too much Coke isn’t too good for your body.”
Marion Nestle, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University, said, “The partnership of Coca-Cola and ‘Harry Potter’ is a sad example of unconscionable marketing. J.K. Rowling has kids reading; there is no reason for her to help undermine their health.”
“Coke has transformed ‘Harry Potter’ into a marketing wizard to hook our kids on its junk beverages. Let’s break Coke’s spell on ‘Harry Potter’ and keep kids safe from the liquid-candy hucksters.” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveys, 20 years ago teenagers drank almost twice as much milk as soda pop. Today they drink twice as much soda pop as milk.
A recent study done at the Harvard School of Public Health found that increased soft-drink consumption was associated with increased obesity in 6th- and 7th-grade students.
Also, a USDA study found that Americans who eat diets high in refined sugars consume more calories but fewer nutrients than people who consume lower-sugar diets.
save Harry Potter encourages visitors to campaign against the marketing of soft drinks (and other junk foods) in their local schools, museums, and other public places.
CSPI is well-known for leading efforts to obtain nutrition labels on packaged foods; publicizing the calorie and fat content of restaurant meals and theater popcorn; and opposing the use of olestra, hydrogenated oils, and other questionable ingredients.
Cosponsors of save Harry Potter include groups in Japan, France, Poland, India, Mexico, and other countries.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).