The exit of big name sponsors Myer, Emirates and Lavazza has opened the Birdcage to some surprising new brands for this year’s Spring racing carnival including dance marquee Ultra and female-friendly dating app Bumble.
The Victoria Racing Club has taken up extra space, adding a Bird Bath Bar to its 1 Oliver St marquee to ensure a full house and Suncorp’s lower-key AAMI marquee is about the only sign of bank or insurance sponsorship, as the sector lays low in the wake of the Hayne royal commission.
The new-look Birdcage, previewed on Wednesday, welcomes seven new brands and cynics are asking whether the arrival of the likes of Ultra and Bumble marks the passing of the exclusive enclosure to a free-for-all party.
Other brands are making the most of shake-up with Lexus upgrading to a three-storey, prime corner real estate marquee that had been occupied by Emirates and Tabcorp also expanding.
French wine and spirit maker Pernod Ricard and their G.H. Mumm Champagne marquee stand out again, outdoing its previous efforts of a swimming pool and a 59-foot yacht with a 12-metre rocketship manned by a DJ to celebrate its first champagne designed for space travel.
While old-world brands like Myer have left, new-economy entrants like Bumble – valued at over $1 billion and weighing up an initial public offering in the US – are buzzing with excitement to be there.
“It’s our first time at Flemington and we have naming rights for the first race on Melbourne Cup Day [Bumble Stakes] and very nicely it is for two-year-old fillies, female horses and we have been here in Australia for two years, so we are about as old as the horses,” Bumble Australia head Michelle Battersby told The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.
“We have had 1.7 million registrations, women have made the first move 26 million times, people have swiped in the app in Australia 7 billion times and we have seen growth in Melbourne of 50 per cent over the past six months,” she said. “On Oaks Day, we are inviting 20 of our users into the Birdcage for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and listen to Aussie businesswomen.”
Other new marquees joining Bumble this year include the world’s biggest dance music festival Ultra snapping-up a front-row marquee, winemaker Seppelt – part of Treasury Wine Estates – replacing Wolf Blass and property developer Pace – which are building multi-storey apartments complete with luxury pool overlooking Flemington’s front straight.
Lexus upgrade, Tabcorp expand
Lexus’ upgraded marquee goes up three floors and has opened up the space to much more light and a bigger balcony with an unrivalled view down the straight. Models Elle Macpherson, Megan Gale and chef Neil Perry will add to the celebrity factor.
“As the day progresses we are doing canapes, little tarts of crab, ceviche for starters and then moving into more-substantials like prawns fried in tempura batter with rice, beautiful noodles with eggplant salad that is Sichuan inspired, so nice and spicy, and then moving into my burgers,” Perry told The Financial Review at the event.
Serious Birdcage race-goers – aside from members headed to Flemington’s new $128 million stand – will again head to the Tabcorp marquee. Guests will be relieved to hear it is 25 per cent bigger this year with the bar moved to the side to avoid the usual crush. Tabcorp’s food comes from chef Adam D’Sylva from Coda and Tonka, with the star attraction a mozzarella bar.
The Lion Nathan marquee has been rebranded from James Boag’s to Furphy this year, after the beer that was born in the Little Creatures brewery in Geelong was rolled out nationally in May and has quickly become the eighth-biggest beer in Victoria.
Watch and jewellery maker Kennedy is also back, keeping things intimate and exclusive with just 120 guests each race-day.
“Being in our second year you get to learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t, we’ve used the space a lot better this year, the traffic and flow which is important when you are entertaining,” James Kennedy told the Financial Review.