Welcome to Will It Stick? podcast, where hosts Melissa and Alexis cover creative advertising campaigns, PR stunts, and marketing activations that brands of all shapes and sizes pull, and dive into the research and data to understand if it worked.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is essentially the Superbowl of the holidays for brands and it also happens to be the WORLD’s LARGEST PARADE. It’s the perfect combo of family-friendly fun and an opportunity to promote the heck out of a brand just in time for the holiday season. And it makes sense why brands clamor to play a role or advertise in the parade….approximately 3.5 million ATTEND the parade in NYC (well not in 2020, but let’s forget that year)., and approx 50 million people tune in to watch the parade between watching it live on NBC and streaming it post-event. Even though the viewership numbers are significantly lower than the Superbowl, this event is much more valuable for many brands because it hits kids and families, a prime, critical demo for pre-holiday. 

In 2019, NBC network generated an estimated $49.2 million in ad revenue from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But did you know that the first-ever Macy’s Parade was dreamed up as one big PR stunt?

The Roaring Twenties was super prosperous for the U.S., and it was also prosperous for New York City’s iconic department store—Macy’s. After going public in 1922, R. H. Macy & Co. started to acquire competitors and open more regional locations. Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square was exploding with growth, raking in the dough – so much so that it decided to expand in 1924 to cover an ENTIRE CITY BLOCK, from Broadway to 7th Ave along 34th Street. This was now the World’s Largest Store featuring 1 million square feet of retail space. Macy’s wanted to celebrate and promote the opening in a huge way, specifically to kickoff the busy shopping season. 

Early Macy’s Christmas Parade (before it was called the Thanksgiving Day Parade)
Mickey Mouse in an Early Macy’s Parade

So – Macy’s decided to throw New York a parade on Thanksgiving morning. Despite the name and the timing, it was actually meant to promote Christmas rather than Thanksgiving. Macy’s hoped that customers would start getting excited, inspiring them to get into the holiday spirit and that means – spending money and shopping at Macy’s. 
So, on November 27, 1924 at 9 a.m. the first-ever Macy’s Christmas Parade started.

It was a success but only earned a two-sentence write-up in the newspaper. Still, that didn’t deter Macy’s from proclaiming a huge success and promising to keep it going annually. Today, the parade is iconic for many American families but, does it still serve the right purpose for Macy’s?

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Resources:

Check out some of the great articles we sourced to gather all the facts for this episode.

Follow Will It Stick on Instagram and check out our website.    

EventMarketer.com‘s article about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The New York Times article from 2017 by Cristina Caron titled Macy’s Used to Set the Balloons Free, and Other Thanksgiving Day Parade Facts

https://macysthanksgiving.fandom.com/ had great info and historical data. 

History.com article about the First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by Christopher Klein 

AdAge’s article titled Why Brands Still Care About The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by Adrianne Pasquarelli  


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