Melbourne Cup Carnival Marquees – A brand investment or ego-driven indulgence?

marketing investement

Pic Courtesy Flemington

I have to admit I love this time of year.

As the Spring Racing Carnival hits full swing, Melbourne turns into a town of glamour and excitement where it seems everyone is a racing aficionado, and dressed accordingly.

As the center of the Carnival universe, Flemington Race Course hosts hundreds of thousands of people over three days of racing, not to mention the millions globally who tune-in to watch the event on television and digital media. Over the past two decades the cache of the Carnival, and Melbourne Cup Day as it’s jewel has steadily grown. The race that stops a Nation is truly a global glamour event, and many brands clamor to get a slice of the action.

As marketing budgets continue to be squeezed and marketing departments continue to shrink, somehow, brand investment in the Carnival is immune. ‘The Birdcage’ – located in the best viewing position on the track and filled to overflowing with mind-boggling expensive ‘marquees’ that wine and dine the A-list of Australia (and the world) is a glittering expression of brand investment.

The marquees are built specifically for the event each year and reflect an orgy of one-up-manship with brands looking to out-do each other and themselves. The budgets for design and build are huge, without taking into account the no-expense spared catering. As businesses continue to steer a careful and considered course through a tough economy, come carnival time it appears – all bets (and budget restrictions) are off.

G.H.Mumm Marquee. Pic courtesy Plus One

brand loyalty

G.H.Mumm Marquee. Pic courtesy

Is there a justification for this kind of spend? For some brands and their brand managers, it can make good sense to penny pinch all year in order to have the budget to do something remarkable to recognise and reward their most important customers. Yet for others, it seems a great excuse for a big, expensive ‘piss-up’, and one that somehow managers to avoid the annual budget cuts.

As with any major business expense, brands need to be clear on the return on their birdcage investments. I’m all-for big and wonderful (and expensive) brand gestures, so long as they’re considered within the context of the entire brand building budget.

Lexus Marquee. Pic courtesy


Lexus Marquee. Pic courtesy

Emirates Marquee. Pic courtesy

brand gesture

Emirates Marquee. Pic courtesy


Schweppes Marquee. Pic; Brenton SpinkĀ 


Harry the Hirer Marquee. Pic courtesy Jono Francisco Creative

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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