Cross-Departmental ESPN Effort Brings Football, Floats and Flowers to Life in 2024 Rose Parade

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Cross-Departmental ESPN Effort Brings Football, Floats and Flowers to Life in 2024 Rose Parade

To celebrate the excitement surrounding the College Football Playoff, ESPN has entered a float in this year’s parade for the first time in nearly two decades

The 135th Rose Parade (Monday, Jan. 1 – 11 a.m. ET, ABC) will be one for the record books, as ESPN dives into the storied New Year’s celebration more than ever before. The longtime broadcast home of the event, ABC will once again televise the New Year’s Day parade in Pasadena, Calif. to millions, working alongside local broadcasters, hundreds of volunteers and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses to bring this year’s Rose Parade to viewers around the country.

Dating back to 1890, the annual parade is a hallmark of the rich tradition of the Rose Bowl Game, with this year’s matchup on the field featuring No. 1 Michigan and No. 4 Alabama facing off with a spot in the College Football Playoff National Championship on the line.

To celebrate the excitement surrounding the postseason and the Road to Houston, ESPN has entered a float in this year’s parade for the first time in nearly two decades. Planning began with ESPN’s Synergy team in early November, and the result has been an intensive cross-departmental effort to bring the floral-decorated, football-themed float to life.

“A collaboration between Marketing, Media Planning, and Synergy, we entered CFP planning in search of a one-of-a-kind, high impact tactic that would have extensive reach and would delight fans in a way we never have before,” said Erin Thornton, Senior Director of Synergy Strategy and Solutions. “We gravitated toward partnering with the Tournament of Roses on a float that showcases two icons of the postseason – the Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy. We couldn’t think of a more unique way to drive tune-in to the National Championship Game, celebrate the final four-team Playoff, and dazzle parade viewers with a beautiful float and some of their favorite ESPN personalities.”

ESPN’s float celebrates the four CFP Semifinalists – Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama – whose stories meet at The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential and The Allstate Sugar Bowl, as well as those who make the sport truly special, the fans. The float itself tops out at 16 feet tall – thanks to a towering CFP trophy – and is 28 feet long and 17 feet wide. Nearly 6,000 flowers were used to create ESPN’s float and the construction utilizes sod directly from the Rose Bowl Stadium, as well as a mix of materials ranging from green ground parsley flakes, white fine ground rice, stems of brown coffee, gold flax seed, whole split pea, and more.

Riding this year’s ESPN float will be Laura Rutledge, Tim Tebow, Paul Finebaum, Jordan Rodgers and Roman Harper of SEC Network’s SEC Nation, Jess Sims from ESPN’s College GameDay Built by the Home Depot, Marty Smith and Ryan McGee of SEC Network’s Marty & McGee, Andrew Spencer from ABC’s The Bachelorette, plus celebrity superfans representing both participating teams in Pasadena – country music chart-topper Walker Hayes (Alabama) and Golden Globe & Emmy Award-winner Darren Criss (Michigan). In addition, executive director of the College Football Playoff Bill Hancock and his wife Nicki will join the ESPN personalities on the float.

For the ABC broadcast, SportsCenter anchors Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi return to co-host the 135th Rose Parade on ABC, with several enhancements for viewers at home:

  • For the first time in history, an onboard camera will show a float traveling from the barns in Irwindale to the start of the parade route in Pasadena on the evening of the 31st
  • Drones will be used throughout the production of this year’s parade, giving viewers an aerial look at the pageantry and passion surrounding this annual celebration
  • Featured this year is ESPN’s highly stylized graphics package with EPIC Games, which debuted in last year’s show
  • Both Sims and Marty & McGee will report from the float as it heads down the parade route toward Orange & Colorado

The annual “Where Flowers Meet Football” handoff during the parade broadcast will be performed by recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee Tebow, who will pass the football to ESPN teammates Rece Davis and Desmond Howard of College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, representing the progression in the day’s events from the Rose Parade to the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential.

ESPN’s production of the 135th Rose Parade on ABC kicks off a full day of football action across ESPN platforms, including the MegaCast presentations of the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential (5 p.m.) and the Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m.). College GameDay Built by The Home Depot will host its annual Rose Bowl Game edition on New Year’s Day, as part of ESPN’s overall studio coverage.

Lead ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit will be inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on New Year’s Day, while also calling his 16th Rose Bowl Game. The newly minted Hall of Famer will be joined on the game call by longtime play-by-play partner Chris Fowler, Emmy Award winner Holly Rowe and NFL Live and SEC Nation host Laura Rutledge, who kicks off her day on ESPN’s Rose Bowl Parade float.

Monday is the beginning of a new year, a start toward the Road to Houston, and a day to fete the game of college football, featuring ESPN’s commitment to the sport and its beloved traditions.

Amanda Brooks

Amanda is the Senior Director of Communications overseeing publicity strategy for ESPN’s entire college sports portfolio, including college football and the College Football Playoff, 40 NCAA Championships and ESPN's college networks. Amanda is a proud alum of Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., and earned her master's in ethics from Vanderbilt University. A native of Kent, Ohio, she is a die-hard Cleveland Guardians fan.
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