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These Are the Corporate Interests Behind Your Favorite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

The balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade aren’t just kept aloft by 300,000 cubic feet of helium; they’re also propped up by big corporate bucks.

The very first parade, held in 1924, started as a promotional stunt. Macy’s put it on to celebrate the expansion of its store in Manhattan. Nearly a century later, the parade is an indelible Thanksgiving Day tradition and, as such, companies besides Macy’s have used it as a massive platform to tout their brands.

What corporate interests will be on display this year? There are a few obvious ones. The Pillsbury Doughboy balloon is—you guessed it—sponsored by Pillsbury. The balloon of Ronald McDonald is backed by none other than McDonald’s.

Pillsbury Doughboy balloon for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is inflated and contained by a net
The Pillsbury Doughboy balloon is inflated on Wednesday.Michael Loccisano Getty Images
Michael Loccisano—Getty Images

Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios are behind the balloon of Scrat and his acorn from the movie Ice Age. The red Power Ranger balloon is sponsored by Saban Brands, Sinclair Oil Company backs the green Sinclair dinosaur balloon, and the trolls balloon is the product of DreamWorks Animation. The red Angry Birds balloon is sponsored by Rovio Animation, Nickelodeon supports the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon, and Amulet Books—an imprint of publisher ABRAMS—is behind the balloon of Greg Heffley, a character from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Macy’s, meanwhile, has it’s own rotation of novelty balloons.

The red angry birds balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is inflated, contained by net
The Angry Birds balloon is inflated on Wednesday.Michael Loccisano 2017 Getty Images
Michael Loccisano—Getty Images

You can see the full-balloon line-up—and each balloon’s sponsor—here. The parade starts at 9 a.m. in all U.S. time zones.

Macy’s is notoriously tight-lipped about the price tag of the parade, but whatever the cost to brands, they get an undeniably strong platform in return: with its huge in-person attendance—some 3.5 million—and its monstrous television audience—approximately 25 million in 2016—the parade is on the same scale as a major sporting event. And at a time when sports—the NFL, in particular—carry with them some controversy, the parade is an especially safe marketing bet because it’s so closely associated with a beloved American holiday.

The only business risk, it seems, is if one of those giant, corporate-sponsored balloons should pop. That possibility is not without precedent. Macy’s first-ever character balloon, Felix the Cat, met his end in 1931 after floating into a high-tension wire and catching fire.