Why Mumm's Melbourne Cup partnership is "absolutely worth it"
It's rumoured to cost anything from $1-2.5 million to lease, construct and cater a marquee for the Birdcage at Melbourne Cup, but Pernod Ricard believes it's worth every cent.
Since kicking off its involvement with the Melbourne Cup Carnival nine years ago, its Mumm label has grown to be Australia's top selling Champagne - a milestone it finally achieved last year.
"Australia is the biggest market in the world outside of France for Mumm," said Bryan Fry, Pernod Ricard Pacific Managing Director. "People are drinking less but better and they regard Champagne as an affordable luxury."
Fry says having an association with the Cup has been a huge boost to the brand.
"There is no race meeting in the world that captures the attention of the public like the Melbourne Cup," he said. "It's also quite rare to find an event where we can showcase our brand in such a prestigious way. Those platforms are very hard to find globally."
Fry said a massive 12 months of planning goes into the marquee, with a team of more than 30 people from Mumm and its partners, including designers, engineers and manufacturers, working on the project.
"We started thinking about this year pretty much as we were sitting at the carnival last year," he confessed.
Last year's daring installation featured a $2.2 million luxury cruising motor yacht. This year's marquee has a "Space Odyssey" theme and an almost 12-metre high rocket manned by a DJ as its centrepiece.
The operation to create the marquee was code-named "Project Dave" in honour of David Bowie's Space Oddity.
"It meant we could talk both internally and externally about Project Dave and no one would be any the wiser," Fry explained.
The concept celebrates of the recent launch of Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar – the first champagne bottle designed for space travel, making it possible for astronauts and other space travellers to enjoy champagne in the challenging surroundings of zero gravity.
Only 30 bottles of Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar were made in the initial run, with some popped during Usain Bolt's press launch. One precious bottle has made its way from Paris to the Birdcage and is on display throughout the Melbourne Cup festivities.
"The bottle inspired everything in the marquee, the chefs even designed the menu based on what they thought could be served on the first intergalatic luxury flight," Fry explained.
Space-themed menu items will include breakfast gels, a high-tech creation involving egg, bacon and tomato on obulato cracker, the ‘astronauts’ breakfast’, freeze dried fruit salad and pearls in obulato triangle, and a dessert of titanium white ‘apple’ mousse sitting on Mumm red raspberry ‘spaghetti’ and champagne foam.
There's also a Mumm Space Odyssey Orchestra, made up of a group of classically trained performers, including members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, who performed a mega-mix of space-themed songs including Rocket Man by Kate Bush, Space Oddity by David Bowie and Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys at a media preview earlier this week.
Fry will fly down to host festivities in the tent this weekend and said that while he's looking forward to the event, what he gets the most pleasure from is "seeing other people enjoy it".
"We have a full RSVP list, not very many people knock an invitiation back," he noted.
When asked whether the investment is worth it, Fry didn't hesitate to say "absolutely".
He believes it's not just good for the Mumm brand but for the Champagne category in general.
"I take my hat off to my team, they've done an excellent job of building Champagne in Australia," he said. "Let's be honest, Champagne is a great category, it's great fun."
As for what Mumm might create to celebrate its 10th anniversary next year at the Melbourne Cup, Fry is keeping his cards close to his chest.
"We continue to lift our game with every activation, no matter what year it is," he teased.
He's also excited about the recent opening of the global flagship Mumm Champagne Bar at Flemington.
The sleek interiors of the Mumm Champagne Bar have been co-designed by the Maison Mumm style team and leading architects Bates Smart.
Inspired by the iconic Mumm champagne bottle, a signature Mumm red ribbon will weave its way across the space, which will include sculptural bars, lounge pavilion, betting pavilion and dining. The bar, which spans half of the first floor of The Club Stand, will also feature an outdoor terrace for an alfresco party experience.
"The bar takes us from being just in the Birdcage for four days each year to being at Flemington 365 days," he said.