It’s a generations-old American tradition: kids being steered to the television and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Indeed, taking in oversized balloons of cartoon characters, elaborate floats, over-the-top dance routines and the grand finale – the arrival of Santa Claus – weaving their way through Midtown Manhattan has delighted children for years. At the same time, it’s freed up home cooks to create their families’ annual Thanksgiving feast.
Nicole Behne admits to using the clever tactic with her two young daughters, although this year she’ll watch with them instead of stealing away to the kitchen. As vice president of marketing for Jennie-O Turkey Store, she has a vested interest. In the 94-year history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, no turkey company has ever had a starring role. The brand team was determined to change that.
“Jennie-O has been a huge part of Thanksgiving for over 80 years, and what says Thanksgiving bigger and more boldly than the Macy’s Parade?” Behne says.
Crafting the agreement began about a year ago. Soon after the deal was inked, work began on the Big Turkey Spectacular, otherwise known as the Jennie-O float. It’s quite a process. The magic happens in New Jersey; Macy’s Parade floats are conceived and crafted by the artisans of Macy’s Parade Studio – a design and production facility that includes carpenters, engineers, electricians, painters, animators, balloon technicians, sculptors, metal fabricators, and scenic and costume designers.
NBC described Jennie-O’s Big Turkey Spectacular as “glittery, glistening and grandiose … right out of the Golden Age of Hollywood but with a modern twist.” Behne concurs.
Jennie-O has been a huge part of Thanksgiving for over 80 years, and what says Thanksgiving bigger and more boldly than the Macy’s Parade?Nicole Behne, vice president of marketing at Jennie-O
“It’s going to have a great wow factor,” she says. “Our float really encompasses a lot of the new energy and vibe and persona [of] the brand. And the glitter! Did I mention the glitter on this turkey?”
According to Parade officials, the Jennie-O float has more of the shiny stuff than any other float in the history of the event. In fact, it would fill a 55-gallon drum and weigh nearly 200 pounds. But that’s far from the float’s only attribute. The tail feathers on the turkey were constructed with enough steel tubing to span a regulation football field from end zone to end zone. They’re not just for show either – they release confetti. The turkey herself is sporting the Jennie-O green and gold, and donning a top hat from which baby turkeys – referred to as poults – peek out.
At 36 feet long, 25 feet wide and 24 feet tall, the Jennie-O float is as big as a house and large enough to serve as a stage for pop singer and songwriter Bebe Rexha . The turkey’s tail feathers span 25 feet in width and are two stories tall. In short, the Jennie-O presence in the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is no small thing. Literally and figuratively.
For one thing, it’s helping to move the needle on consumers’ perception of America’s No. 1 turkey company, and that’s by design. Members of the brand team knew they wanted to elevate the conversation around this brand in a really positive and different way. As it happens, it’s an ideal time to do that. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping millions of Americans at home for the holidays, not to mention every other day of the year, there are a lot of new cooks in the fold.