Marketing the theme park exhibit for one of the best-selling
book franchises of all time may seem like it would be a turnkey effort, but for
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resorts, that was not
"Expectations were enormous," Alice Norsworthy, executive VP of marketing and sales for Universal Orlando Resorts, said at
yesterday's CTAM Summit general session. "Imagine being the potential one who
missed this big opportunity for the company."
To get the series' ardent fan base excited about the theme
park, Norsworthy said her team stuck to four principles in marketing the
opening: Stay true to the Harry Potter stories, reflect the heritage of
Universal, stay close to the fans and expand the theme park's network of
Initially, Universal first went to the fan base to drum up
interest, sending an invitation to a midnight webcast to seven Harry Potter fan
sites that then spread the word about the announcement. Then the marketing went
dark for two and a half years, with Norsworthy's team sending only a few photos
during that time until they revealed the full details of the attraction through
another webcast in September 2009.
Universal then officially launched its TV ad campaign with a
spot in the 2010 Super Bowl - "We wanted to go big," Norsworthy said. Then
began the media blitz with its corporate partners: NBC's Today show held a contest to search for a worthy school to win a
field trip to the park, The Celebrity
Apprentice filmed a segment on marketing the attraction and Warner Bros.' Ellen shot the talk show in Orlando to
get a sneak peek at the attraction.
By the time the Wizarding World opened in spring 2010, the
marketing team had rolled out a TV special showing the process of building the
attraction, fan contests to win trips, themed airplanes and travel planning tie-ins,
among other marketing efforts.
And for Norsworthy and her team, it paid off - on the day
the Wizarding World opened, traffic was already backed up outside the Universal
Resort parking garage at 5 a.m.
"I wasn't going to believe it until I saw it," Norsworthy
said of her expectations. "I went back every day for 30 days to make sure they
were still coming."
While Universal doesn't release attendance figures, Norsworthy
said within six months of opening, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter helped
Universal be named the fastest-growing theme park in the world with
double-digit attendance growth. In another sign of its success - by the end of
the year, the park had sold 1 million Butterbeers, the favorite drink of
Norsworthy told attendees the two lessons she learned from
the massive project were "how content can inspire great marketing" as well as
"the relentless pursuit of quality."
Those two lessons are surely shared by the winner of CTAM's
2012 Mark Awards, also presented during the general session. Accepting at the
panel were USA Network/NBCUniversal, who was honored with the Top of the Mark
Award for their "Characters Unite Month" multimedia campaign combating
predjudice and discrimination and Cinemax, which was recognized with the Most
Innovative award for their "Strike Back
Super Wall" to promote the premium network's first original series, Strike Back.