Santa symposium seeks to entice sponsors

The annual Santa Claus Parade Marketing Symposium highlighted results from last year's event and presented sponsorship opportunities for 2011.

Want to know the secret to creating a memorable marketing conference? It’s simple. Dress a pair of grown men in clown suits, have one of your keynote speakers wear candy cane socks and invite Santa Claus to engage the audience with a song and dance.

At least, that’s what went down at the annual Santa Claus Parade Marketing Symposium held yesterday at the Hilton hotel in Toronto. The second edition of the now-annual event included colourful highlights from the 2010 parade and outlined how sponsors can get involved this November.

In his opening remarks, Peter Beresford, president, Santa Claus Parade, spoke about expanding the brand and how organizers aim to be creators and custodians of Christmas memories made by millions of Canadians each year.

Last year, over half a million spectators on site and 3.8 million TV viewers watched dozens of sponsored floats being marched down Bloor Street through to Front Street in Toronto. It was ‘a breakthrough year’ for the parade, Beresford said, as organizers integrated more technology into the event’s marketing plan.

Stick-handled by Toronto-based Dashboard, the parade went digital with two iPhone applications, one of which gave users the ability to track down Santa on his route. As well, a redesigned website allowed thousands of users to post their memories of past years and share those with the community of parade-goers.

The not-for-profit volunteer organization is now utilizing social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to share photographs, videos and memories from previous parades reaching as far back as the late 1920s.

During the symposium, Dashboard founder and Santa Claus Parade board member Barry Hillier talked about how promoting the preservation of memories increases viewer participation.

‘We want to have reach, create more impressions and a much stronger integrated campaign,’ said Hillier of this year’s plan. ‘We want to [increase the advertising] because we want more people to enjoy and build on those future memories of the parade.’

Parade broadcast partners CTV and CP24 are offering brand partnership opportunities for the 2011 Santa Claus Parade, including generic idea sponsorships for competitions such as the search for the most spirited classroom, a caroling contest and a spot-the-float contest. Customized packages can also be created to accommodate brand objectives and demographics.

Brands can interact with parade participants by becoming a sponsor for the 2011 pre-parade events, such as the free Santa Claus breakfast at Yonge-Dundas Square and by becoming a title sponsor for the entire event. There will be 50,000 Santa Claus Parade goody bags available for brands to fill with goods, to be passed out along the parade route. Three small and two large parade floats are available for sponsorship.

Promotion-wise, the parade’s print sponsor for the third year, the Toronto Star, is running ads in its print edition, as well as a ‘Santa sleeps here’ contest and a 12-page keepsake Santa Claus Parade special section.