From a brand perspective, what makes Melbourne's internationally renowned Spring Racing Carnival so successful? Is it beautiful women dressed for Spring? Is it copious volumes of alcohol consumption? Is it simply great marketing?
While all these things are essential ingredients, I suspect it is because, like all great things, the Spring Racing Carnival has substance built on years of tradition and moments of note. The rest is just the contemporary pizazz required to make horse racing the hub of an extravagant Spring celebration. Without the tradition of the 3200 metre Melbourne Cup (first run in 1861) and the 2500 metre Victoria Derby for three year olds (first run in 1855), this event would not be happening. Better still, without the history, it would be impossible to create the Spring Carnival with the same degree of success.
As I have written in other blogs, the key to the success of branding is remaining true to brand. The Carnival's custodian, the Victorian Racing Club has done this, retaining all the traditions and pageantry while repackaging it to appeal to a new audience.
This year, with brilliant weather forecast for most of the week, the VRC expects the aggregate crowd number for the four days of the Carnival to exceed 400,000 - a huge number for horse racing held anywhere in the world. The worldwide audience for the television coverage, let alone the growing online following, will be in the hundreds of millions for the running of the Melbourne Cup alone.
This is a brand with substance to match the promise. As an avowed follower and unsuccessful owner of throroughbreds, I will of course be included in the headcount for this year's Carnival attendance. No doubt I will contribute heavily to next year's marketing budget and to the general welfare of those employed in racing. But who cares? It's a great tradition, well presented and marketed.
Congratulations to all those involved. I'm happy to pay for the privilege of this great 'brand experience'. Most of all, congratulations to the horses who, with their regally bred ancestors, have delivered the legend that underpins our unique Spring Racing Carnival!