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TheStreet Open House

5 Most Ill-Fated Corporate Thanksgiving Parade Balloons

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- There are few bigger company endorsements than a balloon in the Macy's (M - Get Report) Thanksgiving Day Parade, but all it takes is one misstep to burst that helium-inflated corporate ego boost.

Not every company's mascot gets the rubber treatment, so those that see their corporate symbol stitched together at Macy's workshop in Hoboken, N.J., trucked through the Lincoln Tunnel, inflated beside the Museum of Natural History and floated through the streets of Manhattan are among the lucky few. Unfortunately, every few years or so, that good fortune turns fickle and injures a few folks along the parade route.

Before buying a giant, helium bloated billboard for Thanksgiving morning, every marketing department in the country should be shown footage of the 1997 parade. That year, a giant balloon shaped like Dr. Seuss' beloved Cat In The Hat was pushed around by high winds and crashed into a streetlight. Debris from that light hit a woman below, fractured her skull and left her in a coma for roughly a month.

After the accident the New York City Police Department went along the parade route stabbing balloon versions of The Pink Panther and Barney to bring them down. That was the end of the Cat In The Hat, Woody Woodpecker and all of the parade's much bigger balloons; the fallout led to size restrictions from that point on.

Unfortunately for companies, a parade balloon doesn't even need to be involved in an accident to damage a business and its reputation. We thumbed through the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and found five examples of parade balloons companies never should have inflated:

Sonic The Hedgehog
Balloon year: 1993

These were the good old days for Sega.

Its Genesis system was a rousing success. It was drawing gamers away from the video game industry's reigning champion, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and forced its rival to release the Super Nintendo in 1991. Most importantly, it had gained a mascot in Sonic The Hedgehog that could go toe-to-toe with Nintendo's Mario.

Unfortunately, Sonic's lighter-than-air incarnation proved a bit more unwieldy than his video game counterpart. It crashed into a streetlight at Columbus Circle (this happens a lot during parade history, which really makes us wonder about streetlight placement along the parade route). The debris from the light injured an off-duty cop, a big no-no in NYC.

Sonic disappeared from the parade lineup for two decades, while Sega began a slow slide into obscurity that began with the release of the poorly received Sega Saturn in 1995 and ended with Sega out of the console game altogether by 2001. The next time Sonic appeared in the Thanksgiving parade in 2011, it was as a character in Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games for former rival Nintendo's 3DS system. How deflating.

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