Prince Harry—UK Business Ambassador?
Prince Harry went to the Jersey Shore on Tuesday, not for partying, but for his princely duties that the U.K. hopes will help drum up business for the mother country.
Known more for his mischievous smile and infamous partying, Prince Harry is not the first person that comes to mind as an international business ambassador for the U.K., with media reports of his naked frolics in a Las Vegas hotel room last July still fresh in the public's memory.
But Harry Wales has been playing the royal role with panache, winning praise and wooing crowds as he makes a seven-day tour to the U.S. this week.
Wearing sunglasses, the prince strolled along the rebuilt boardwalk at Seaside Heights, N.J., with Gov. Chris Christie to inspect the cleanup after Hurricane Sandy. He then headed to New York to join with Prime Minister David Cameron to promote the "GREAT" campaign alongside U.K. entrepreneurs. They aim to market Britain as a great place to visit, study, work and invest in.
The director of the British Brands Group, John Noble, told CNBC that British royals like Harry were a great brand to use to drum up support for British business.
"The royal family is such an important part of the U.K.'s identity here and abroad and one that is greatly admired overseas. When we see aspects of British life and business promoted abroad by the royal family—which has such a good reputation and is held in such high esteem abroad—it can only be a good thing," Noble, director of the nonprofit organization supporting British brands, told CNBC.
Launched by the U.K government's ministry for Culture, Media and Sport in New York in 2011, the "GREAT" campaign hopes to promote Great Britain around the world. The campaign has help promotional events in Hong Kong, China, Australia and Brazil. Those that have represented the campaign include fashion designer Victoria Beckham and American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as well as the country's sporting stars.
With Harry's past gaffes including dressing as a Nazi at a fancy dress party, admitting to underage drinking and most recently, courting controversy by comparing war to video games, the choice of making him a business ambassador is both astute and risky.
"British exports export well to the U.S. and Prince Harry's celebrity status is clearly quite popular there," Graham Hales, chief executive of the London office of global brand consultancy Interbrand, told CNBC on Tuesday.
"There's good and bad that goes with that in terms of opportunity for good and bad publicity but Harry comes across as a jovial chap. And yes, he likes to party, but wouldn't we all in his circumstances? He hasn't done anything really that bad," Hales said.
U.K.Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller called GREAT "the most ambitious ever U.K. marketing campaign, designed to deliver a lasting economic legacy from 2012 [the year of the Olympics and Queen's Jubilee in London]."
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She said a total of 30 million pounds ($46 million) will be spent on the campaign in 2013-14 and Britain "will be able to target even more markets around the world, making sure that the U.K. is competing aggressively in a global marketplace."
At 27, Prince Harry is seen as the most colorful and carefree character in the royal household despite serving twice in Afghanistan. He has taken on more royal duties and is seen as a winning combination with his brother, Prince William, and William's wife, Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge, often joining them on royal engagements.
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During his trip to the U.S. this week, Harry has visited a U.S. war cemetery in Virginia and wounded war veterans in Colorado. He has popped in for tea with Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, met U.S. Olympians and is due to attend a baseball game Tuesday evening after giving his royal seal of approval to the British business event in Manhattan.
_ By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter