Tournament of Roses
Walking the Same Path, Together
How Star Insights Helped The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Balance Tradition With The Need For Change
Every year, in early January, one million people line Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, while another 30 million viewers nationwide tune in to watch the live broadcast of America’s New Year Celebration – the Rose Parade. Later that afternoon, attention turns to the Rose Bowl Game, an annual post-season football game held in the Rose Bowl Stadium.
The organization that presents and stewards these events, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association (TOR), is dedicated to celebrating the hope, joy, and unlimited possibilities of a new year, bringing joy to people locally, nationally, and globally. It takes 935 volunteer members more than 80,000 combined hours every year to put on these events and celebrate the hope of new beginnings that comes with New Year’s Day.
As a very high-profile, complex organization that involves the entire community of Pasadena, TOR needs an excellent strategic plan in order to be successful.
“In my role as CEO, it’s important that we have that North star. Where are we going as an association that we can all rally behind and kind of guide us? Because I’m getting hit every day by individuals or organizations that say ‘We want to partner with you on this. We want to partner with you on that.’ And, for me, a strategic plan really gives me that foundation to ensure that we’re all walking down that same path together.”
Tournament of Roses
With their existing five year plan ending in 2022, the Tournament of Roses needed a new strategic plan that would help them simultaneously preserve the traditions the Tournament is known for, while also setting a future vision that accounts for the dynamic environment of college sports and broadening their engagement with sponsors, broadcast partners, community stakeholders, float builders, TOR staff and volunteers, and additional stakeholder groups.
“As we were coming up on 2022, I felt it was really going to be important that we do a very inclusive plan – not internal, like what we did the first time. We should really take input from a large group of constituents to say, ‘what should we be doing? What should be our focus over the next five years?’” – David Eads, CEO, Tournament of Roses
BALANCING TRADITION WITH CHANGE
Operating since 1895, the Tournament of Roses has a long and rich history, full of tradition. However, given the tremendous changes taking place in the world, TOR acknowledges their need to develop a flexible and resilient strategic plan that looks to the future, while continuing to steward their iconic events.
“The Tournament realizes we need to change. We realize the world has changed quickly around us. As we work with community stakeholders, and community groups, there is this new sense of diversity, equity, and inclusion that didn’t necessarily exist 30 or 40, or 50 years ago. This could be a radical change to some of our existing members, but to a newer member who’s 20 years old, or 25 years old, this is an expectation. How are we improving our community? How are we helping to better the world? That’s the type of organization they want to be involved in. So, we have to find that balance, knowing that our future is with these younger members, but we also want to honor that legacy that got us to where we are today.” – David Eads, CEO, Tournament of Roses
Navigating this tension between modern expectations and established traditions was a key focus of the strategic planning process. How could the Tournament grow and evolve, without losing who they were? How could they remain flexible and open to change while ensuring beloved traditions continue on?
And how could they answer these questions on an accelerated timeline? From September to January each year, the organization’s full focus is on planning the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game, with limited resources to spare for strategic planning. Thus, with a strict five-month timeline (February to August), the ability to move swiftly, be agile, and stick to the agreed upon timelines were crucial requirements in this engagement. Extending beyond the timeline would result in the strategic plan being pushed off for almost a year, and likely remaining uncompleted.
“What we did not want is somebody from the outside coming in and saying, you know, ‘We’ve done this review, and this is who you should be, and this is what you are.’ That’s not what we were looking for. And the entire team from Star Insights, they really listened. I mean, that was key. They listened. And their follow through was excellent. And then they held us to the timeline that we’d established, because, in order to meet our timeline, that’s what was necessary.”
Tournament of Roses
With these criteria in mind, TOR selected Star Insights and their signature Co-Creation process to help them engage their stakeholders holistically, listen to the community, and craft a forward-looking strategic plan that would bring them into the future, while simultaneously ensuring that traditions beloved by the community would continue on.
LISTENING TO EVERYONE
Working with a core group of members from the Tournament’s Executive Committee, Star Insights took the Tournament of Roses through their signature, 5-Phase Co-Creation process. Engaging with a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders, including current and past sponsors, broadcast partners, current and past float participants, commercial and self-built float builders, city and state officials, community leaders, and TOR staff and association members at all levels, Star Insights and the strategic planning team solicited thoughts, ideas and unique perspectives on TOR’s future from these engaged stakeholders.
“We received very positive feedback from all those stakeholders for the process itself. And their appreciation for being involved in the process and letting their voice be heard was really, really important as we put this strategic plan together.” – David Eads, CEO, Tournament of Roses
Drawing out themes and patterns based on what they heard during these listening sessions, Star Insights then presented them to the Tournament’s Executive Committee. This Learnings & Implications document (delivered during Phase 3) was particularly impactful, serving as the basis for a series of highly interactive, strategy development workshops TOR presented in June and July, and the foundation for the iterative development of the final strategic plan.
“Star Insights was really good about synthesizing all that information and bringing it back to our leadership to really look at and evaluate and help us determine what those strategic priorities are going to be. Where are we going to emphasize our work in the future? They helped us take in thousands of pieces of information and synthesize that down now to five strategic goals.”
Tournament of Roses
THE PEOPLE’S PARADE
With input from hundreds of highly engaged internal and external stakeholders, TOR was able to develop a robust strategic plan and framework that will move the organization forward and achieve the shared vision all engaged stakeholders share for its future success.
“I’ve done lots of strategic plans and I’ve worked with lots of consultants. Star Insights did an exceptional job working with our volunteer leadership and providing us the structure and the framework to really develop a robust plan that helps set our course and direction in the future. And they did it in a way and that was very collaborative. It was not telling us what to do, but it was leading us to think for ourselves.” – David Eads, CEO, Tournament of Roses
With newly established strategic priorities that include ensuring the future success of the parade and game, reimagining and reinforcing their membership model, elevating their brands, aligning association resources to optimize impact, and enhancing relationships and community collaboration, TOR has been able to focus on planning the 2023 celebration, knowing their direction for the future is not just secure, but serves their vision of using the arts, sports, storytelling, and community to enrich lives.
“By giving the people of Pasadena a say in the process, they were helping us establish who we are going to be moving forward. In reality, this is not the Tournament’s parade, but the people’s parade. The people of Pasadena feel like they own it. And that’s exactly what we want. It’s their parade. And through this inclusive process, they had a voice into what this future looks like.” – David Eads, CEO, Tournament of Roses