First, here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to all of our friends and the friends we haven’t met yet!   At last year’s Hollywood Christmas Parade, HERO negotiated a unique product placement integration for long time client ServiceMaster Clean. No, it wasn’t a float of a broom to end the parade and clean the route at the same time, though that would have been pretty clever. In fact the brand didn’t actually appear in the parade itself at all. Brands hire HERO as their product placement representative and stay with us because we go as far outside the box as we have to get the brand where they want to be (or maybe it’s the lovely Harry & David New Year’s treats they’ve come to expect when they return from the holiday break). In this case, we found the perfect match. The main viewing area of the star-studded event takes place at the corner of Hollywood and Highland on the world’s largest red carpet! But wait, last year and entire parade marched over this record breaking wonder; surely it could use some spiffing up. Enter ServiceMaster Clean.

A thorough cleaning of the carpet took place just a few hours before marching bands, Budweiser Clydesdales and Earth, Wind and Fire were to grace its redness. The expansive cleaning job was captured on camera and an edited feature was cut right into the parade coverage.  To put a cherry on it (the story not the carpet; cherries are hell to get out), HERO arranged for ServiceMaster Clean  to make a coordinated toy contribution to the event’s charitable beneficiary Toys For Tots.  The end result delivered great impressions during the national broadcast on Hallmark Channel, great media for the brand to use in myriad ways and, yes, it helped even the kids. But parade product placement is hardly new. In fact most people start their year off with one of the biggest displays of brand integration on Earth.

To make this point we will leave you for the next few paragraphs in the credible and capable hands of CNBC.com.

Corporate sponsors will be incorporating their brand message in more than 40 floats during this year’s Rose Parade. Millions watch the parade, so it totally makes sense for the brands. 

That kind of exposure comes with a hefty price tag, but corporate sponsors say the chance to get their company’s message out to millions is worth the expense.

“We feel the return is very efficient,” Dole packaged Foods director of corporate communications Marty Ordman told CNBC. “We’re able to get some key brand and product points across about our products and initiatives,” he added.

Scott’s Miracle-Gro another parade participant, said it spent about $250,000 for its float, which weighs in at 42,050 pounds and took a crew of 400 people around 8,000 hours to build and decorate.

“We look at [return on investment] on many different levels…we measure it much more than the 2 hour parade,” Scotts Miracle-Gro vice president John Sass told CNBC.

Sass said the company uses its designation as the “Official Rose and Flower Care Company of the Tournament of Roses” in its in-store branding, and capitalizes on the exposure to millions of viewers around the world. The company also partnered with HGTV this year to sponsor TV coverage of the event.

Sass said that while live events and sponsorship are a smaller part of the company’s media mix, “it gives variety to media spend and allows us to connect with consumers in a much different way than traditional media can get you.”

Is the ROI worth the money?

For its part, Dole spent about $500,000 on its Rose Parade efforts this year, according to Ordman. That includes the cost of the float, entry fee into the parade, and marketing campaigns.

That figure runs a bit higher than the average cost of a float, according to Tim Estes, CEO of Fiesta Parade Floats. “I would say the overall average is around about $250 to $260,000, somewhere in that range,” said Estes. His company made about a quarter of this year’s floats —including a display based on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” one of two floats Disney sponsored in this year’s parade.

According to Estes, a number of corporate sponsors have told him they’ve received anywhere from four to six dollars in returns for every dollar invested in a float. “It’s a great ROI for anyone…trying to give a message about who you are and what you do,” he said.

But apart from the return that corporate sponsors hope to achieve with their floats, Dole’s Marty Ordman said there’s something special about participating in an event that dates back to the late 1800s.

“It’s a very positive experience shared by millions of people,” he said, “and being part of it is nice.”

 

Whether it’s a parade, a TV show or a feature film, brand integration remains the single best, most cost-effective way for a product or service to draw the kinds of associations that will make them appealing to their particular audience.  2016 marks HERO’s 19th year of rolling out the (clean) red carpet for our parade-worthy clients. Thanks to each and every one of you and here’s to another year of great exposure!