By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) - The Firm, as Britain's royal family calls itself, has a new asset.
With the world media in a frenzy over the birth of Prince William and his wife Kate's son, companies from airlines to champagne-makers have jumped on the chance to cash in on the wave of popularity sweeping over the royal family.
From royal potties to blue-cream-filled doughnuts to china commemorative plates, the range of merchandise celebrating the birth of the prince ranges from the obvious to the bizarre.
Economic forecasters have suggested the new prince could boost Britain's austerity-hit economy by as much as 520 million pounds ($780 million) in the short term as well-wishers buy souvenirs, celebrate his arrival, and buy baby products.
But the longer term impact of the latest good news from the House of Windsor is deemed more significant, with the rising popularity of the royals helping underpin the image of Britain abroad while brightening consumer sentiment in a tough economy.
Asset valuation agency Brand Finance said the monarchy was one of Britain's most valuable brands, run professionally like a firm and set to contribute an estimated 1.9 billion pounds to the British economy this year while costing 250 million pounds.
"Whether you agree or disagree with the constitutional principle, there is little doubt that the monarchy adds significant annual earnings and long term economic value to the UK," Brand Finance's Chief Executive David Haigh told Reuters.
"The latest Windsor will be an effective and lucrative ambassador for Brand Britain, making a significant contribution to the task of driving Britain out of the recession. There is a trend in favor of the royal family and they are clearly getting very good advice over marketing and communication."
The estimated benefit of the monarchy to the economy was worked out by valuing intangible assets such as tourism, merchandising, PR value, and royalties.
BRANDING "THE FIRM"
Tourism is Britain's fifth largest industry and the royal family plays a leading role.
Royal ceremonies and events always get worldwide media attention and have helped increase the royals' popularity, such as with William and Kate's spectacular wedding in April 2011 and the queen's Diamond Jubilee last year.
Tradition reigned on Monday with pomp and ceremony around the yet-to-be-named baby's arrival as the birth announcement was pinned to a golden easel inside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
Clarissa Campbell Orr, historian of monarchy at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, said Britain's monarchy was a long-lasting brand in that it promoted continuity by combining heritage, tradition and a close relationship with people.
She said the younger royals, led by Prince William and his soldier-playboy brother Harry, had cemented this feeling of continuity. A poll last week showed the popularity of the royal family is back at record levels with 77 percent support for the monarchy.
The royals fell out of public favor for misjudging their reaction to the death of the hugely popular Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, a year after her divorce from Prince Charles. They were seen as out of touch.
"There are people who have not forgiven Prince Charles for his relationship with Princess Diana but the relationship between William and Kate is unclouded and uncomplicated. It promotes continuity," Orr told Reuters.
"This is a fresh generation. The monarchy has proved that it is adaptable and it's much more media savvy than it used to be."
Haigh said the royal family had received good advice in recent years from public relations and marketing experts on how to re-invent its image, trimming down the number of royals to focus on the younger generation.
"They haven't put a foot wrong in anything they have done recently," Haigh said. "I am neutral about the monarchy as an institution but if you look at the economics, it is almost irrefutable that they are going a good job in helping the British economy."
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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