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Sinclair Oil uses Macy's Parade to market return to east coast

Nov 23 Giant balloons will float above New York City's 6th Avenue on Thursday morning in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, one of them a 72-foot-long green dinosaur balloon from Sinclair Oil Corp boosting recognition of its name amid an expansion of its gas stations into the East.

Privately owned Sinclair is in the middle of a major expansion with the company planning to more than double the 1,300 Sinclair-branded gasoline stations by 2024, with most of that growth planned for the eastern part of the United States.

The green dinosaur, known as Dino, is part of the company's logo.

"We were a coast-to-coast brand decades ago before the changes in ownership and some of the consolidation of the industry," said Jack Barger, the company's vice president of marketing and supply.

Online retailer Ebates estimated the cost for a brand to put a balloon in the parade at between $90,000 and $190,000. Macy's would not divulge any costs associated with the parade. Sinclair declined to say how much it paid but described the balloon investment at the "higher end" of what brands usually pay.

All month long, Salt Lake City-headquartered Sinclair has been driving a miniature Dino dinosaur across the country in a marketing push that will culminate with the parade.

An older version of Dino had been a part of the parade for 13 years in the 1960s and 1970s but was "retired" in 1977, with the company returning last year with a new version. "It's a kind of character that really fits with a lot of the other big balloons in the parade," said Barger.

The parade is annually among the most-watched non-sporting events, with NBC drawing more than 22 million viewers last year. This year, NBC is partnering with Verizon Communications Inc to stream the parade for the first time on Verizon's YouTube page. The parade also attracts more than 3 million people who line the streets of Manhattan.

In an era of fragmented TV viewership, Barger said, the money spent on the 36-foot tall balloon is just as valuable as buying regular commercial time. "It's one of the few ways to put your brand in front of an event that people really watch."

Other brands participating in the parade include Saban Brands, Pillsbury and McDonald's Corp. (Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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