CAMPAIGN: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter announcement

Having agreed a deal to create The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Florida’s Universal ­Orlando ­Resort, Universal sought a way to communicate this to ensure buy-in from a fiercely loyal fan base and gain widespread coverage both on- and ­offline.

Universal Orlando Resort: aims to recreate fictional Harry Potter world at theme park
Universal Orlando Resort: aims to recreate fictional Harry Potter world at theme park

Campaign: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter announcement
Client: Universal Orlando Resort (UOR)
PR teams: Fleishman-Hillard Travel & Tourism, Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Timescale: April-June 2007
Budget: Undisclosed

To herald the launch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter globally. To ­ensure the buy-in of dedicated Harry Potter fans. To convey the credibility of the theme park and fidelity to the characters and stories. To generate coverage emphasising that UOR is the creator of the theme park.

Strategy and plan
Online communities revolving around a shared love of the Harry Potter brand were initially targeted over traditional media. By embracing these communities and providing the individuals concerned with key information, it was hoped that the news would spread rapidly throughout the world.

The team set up a live webcast and invited the ten most influential individuals in the online arena – the webmasters and owners of the biggest Harry Potter fan sites. This would form the first global announcement of the story, with the traditional media push following immediately afterwards.

Broadcast agency USP Content was brought in to manage the production of the webcast, which featured Scott Trowbridge, SVP of creative services at Universal, and Stuart Craig, Academy Award-winning production designer of the Harry Potter movies.

The webcast, which was filmed on the Harry Potter film set in London, gave the audience access to exclusive artwork and the chance to pose questions in real-time via a purpose-built microsite.

The content was offered to major online media channels, including MSN. Fleishman-Hillard Travel & Tourism managed subsequent media relations with print and broadcast ­media while F-H Digital dealt with online portals.

Measurement and evaluation
More than 1,000 pieces of coverage were generated across international press and broadcast media within 24 hours of the announcement. Coverage appeared on BBC Breakfast, GMTV, Sky News, across national radio and in most national daily newspapers.

Online coverage by The Times ranked it as the most-read story for more than 24 hours. Yahoo and Google listed more than 6.5 million searches.

More than 18,000 blog posts were made ­expressing positive sentiments towards the announcement – roughly 0.3 per cent of all global blog posts that day. The exclusive artwork was ­reproduced online more than 8,000 times.

Visits to the UOR online press office jumped from 30,000 unique users in a month to 1.5 million in just a few days.

Approximately 175 million people read, saw, heard or talked online about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the week after the announcement. A total of 60,000 people registered their details on the website.


Drew Benvie (r), director, Hotwire: What the PR team for this campaign did well was to make sure core enthusiasts were on-board first before reaching out to wider, less informed audiences.

But what really added value was the mix of digital and traditional launch tactics used by the PR team.

The team’s strategy of using video and images alongside an online press release to maximise fansite and blogger pick-up worked well, as did the dedicated webcast for fansite owners to generate interest in the run-up to the launch.

Social media can be used for PR advantage in myriad ways, but to get the most out of the new digital arena takes a real understanding of the way technology and human nature can interact to create brand awareness.

The campaign certainly got plenty of coverage, but while it seems quite a triumph to generate 1,000 pieces of press coverage in just 24 hours, a search for Harry Potter coverage online in a random 24-hour period showed 6,500 articles online.

What this PR launch missed was an opportunity to target the ‘long tail’ of social media to generate further pick-up among fans who are on social networks or have blogs. There are 9.8 million blog posts mentioning Harry Potter, 79,000 photos on Flickr, 766,000 MySpace pages and more than 1,000 groups and events on Facebook – some with in excess of 10,000 members each. A number of other brands have targeted niche social networks such as these to generate mass awareness with staggering success.

However, that aside, the launch of the Harry Potter theme park has been one of the most memorable launches in recent years.

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