The annual Farmers Santa Parade is just such an event. Lively, fantastical and world class, the parade has seen 85 Christmases. And attendances just keep growing.
The first-ever Farmers Santa Parade was initiated in 1934 as an extension of Farmers’ commitment to trumping its competitors in the department store space with elaborate Christmas displays and exhibits, and kicked off with a lively parade.
Led by decorated carts and storybook characters, Santa left Farmers Hobson Street and circled the main Auckland shopping precinct via Karangahape Road and Queen Street.
Staff were heavily involved with the parade, making up the majority of
costumed characters and helpers. Jean Walker, who was Noddy in the 1980 parade recalls the special relationship between the kids and their favourite characters.
“The little kiddies lining the street really thought I was Noddy and were chatting away to me as if I was an Enid Blyton character.”
During the 1990s, the Santa Parade’s corporate structure changed. Parade General Manager, Pam Glaser, explains that Chase Corporation, the new owners of Farmers at the time, chose a new direction for the parade when they gifted it to Auckland City in 1991.
The charitable Auckland Children’s Christmas Parade Trust was formed to run it, with the Farmers retail group staying on as a trustee and a few years later, reclaiming naming rights as a key sponsor.
The new structure opened up the opportunity to businesses to be involved, and the first branded float Glaser recalls was by the BNZ to celebrate the arrival of a pair of pandas which had been brought to Auckland Zoo from China.
“That float created a lot of buzz,” says Glaser, “and it was the first of many creative marketing campaigns that saw brands come to life in the parade.”
She says that involvement in the parade is an ideal way for a sponsor to launch a new product, engage with their audience or simply boost brand awareness with activations like samples, giveaways and in-store specials to tie in with the event.
“A sponsor could push to activate Christmas shopping early using the parade as a tool,” she says.