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Rose Parade Has Sweet Smell and a Few Thorns for Corporate Sponsors

December 29, 1987|BRUCE HOROVITZ

The Yoplait yogurt marketing whiz figured he'd come out smelling like a rose. After all, what better way to introduce the newfangled yogurt to the West Coast than by placing a bang-up float in the Tournament of Roses parade?

Indeed, the New Year's Day float was a rousing success. That, however, was two years ago. This year, Yoplait, which is marketed in the United States by General Mills, won't be parading its yogurt down Colorado Boulevard.

"There's nothing new that we're introducing on the West Coast this year," said Craig Shulstad, director of media relations at General Mills. "We no longer have a need to be in the parade."

That is the sort of response that drives Tournament of Roses officials batty. After all, officials know that the parade can be an advertising showcase--and a bargain at that. Although floats can cost upward of $150,000, they insist that there are few better ways to reach 300 million TV viewers worldwide.

In fact, tournament officials are taking the offensive this year in trying to convince more Fortune 500-type companies to consider sponsoring floats in parades. "We have to start making more of them aware that we're an option," said Jack Tallon, chairman of the float entering committee of the Tournament of Roses. "We haven't done a very good job of that in the past."

It's not that there aren't enough sponsors. Indeed, there is a waiting list of organizations that want to sponsor one of the 60 floats. Some big-name outfits, like Atlantic Richfield Co. and American Honda, will have floats in the parade on Jan. 1.

"It's the media buy bargain of the year," said Richard Schoonover, vice president of marketing at Security Pacific National Bank, which will have a float in the Rose parade for the third time. It provides company awareness nationally and internationally "at a very, very reasonable price."

It's not just good for public relations, he said, but also good for employee relations. Employees have an opportunity to work on the float and attend the parade, he noted.

In fact, the number of corporate sponsors for the 1988 parade has actually increased to 27, compared to 24 in 1987. But most of the corporate sponsors, like Arco and American Honda, are Southern California companies, and the other 33 sponsors are generally service groups such as the Good Sam Club, a nationwide organization of recreational vehicle enthusiasts, and cities such as Carson and Santa Ana.

Meanwhile, 17 sponsors have dropped out over the past two years.

The list of big-time dropouts includes Sunkist, Hilton Hotels, Catalina Swimwear, Small World, Giorgio and PSA. Some said they were turned off by rules that strictly limit the size of the corporate logos and discourage attempts to use the floats as advertising vehicles. Others said they are uncomfortable spending money on advertising that produces results that can't accurately be measured. And some simply had second thoughts. "The feeling here was that a regional carrier really didn't need national exposure," said Bill Hastings, a PSA spokesman.

One former corporate sponsor, who asked not to be identified, said that his corporation was slightly embarrassed to have its logo seen next to those of some much smaller operations.

Some advertisers who have appeared in the parade and have since left say that when push comes to shove in their advertising budgets, supplemental promotions like the Tournament of Roses are among the first things to go.

"If you have a lot of money, it's a fun thing and it gives you a lot of exposure," said Marian Murphy, vice president of marketing at Computerland Corp. "But we figure that ads in Forbes are more directed toward our target than a float in the Rose parade."

Computerland placed a float in the 1986 parade but not since. "The parade is strictly an image-building thing," Murphy said. "No one is going to make a computer-buying decision based on having seen a float in the parade."

Concerned about the frequent turnover in sponsors, parade officials are now actively recruiting sponsors for the parade's 100th anniversary in 1989. And in the early going, it appears that the centennial parade will be an advertising success. Murphy said her company has already held discussions about sponsoring a float in 1989, following a two-year absence. Said Murphy: "Something about the 100th anniversary makes it very special."

Ailing Toy Maker Has Ad Firm Wondering

Executives at the Los Angeles-based ad firm Chiat/Day are wondering about Worlds of Wonder. For the past several years, the toy maker has been the biggest client of the ad firm's San Francisco office. Last week, however, Worlds of Wonder, which created such well-known toys as Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Worlds of Wonder owes $3.1 million to Chiat/Day. But according to the bankruptcy filing, the Fremont, Calif., company has a net worth of just $1.5 million.

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