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Mice Net : February 2010
68 mice.net ATTRACTING UP TO 400,000 attendees over four fabulous days at Flemington, the Melbourne Cup Carnival injects $406 million into Victoria and is watched by 700 million viewers worldwide. winning in tough times ANDREW RAHNI EVENTS & MARKETING MANAGER ATHENAEUM CLUB Andrew Rahni oversees marketing communications for ISES Melbourne and is events and marketing manager at the Athenaeum Club, Melbourne. Andrew talks with ISES Melbourne member, Rozalee Erceg, general manager Flemington business development. Q: How has the GFC impacted Flemington? A: Leading up to the 2008 carnival, it was clear the landscape had changed and we needed to be prepared to adapt. We researched what was happening with other major events in Australia and overseas, giving us some very strong indicators. The first real impact came in January 2009 with our event centre business. In a single month over $1 million of functions were cancelled. It was like companies had returned from holidays and said "where can we cut back". Although the Melbourne Cup Carnival is a hallmark event, we knew it wouldn't be immune. In the first instance, we worked alongside our very loyal supplier base to see how we could hold costs, enabling us to minimise price increases to clients. We needed to conduct business differently with a strong focus to get back to the basics of sales being paramount. Where required, our teams were skilled up further, and we rang a celebratory bell each time business was confirmed. CEO Dale Monteith also sent regular briefings to all staff, updating them on racecourse news and keeping them buoyed. Overall the 2009 carnival fared well. Corporate hospitality and attendances were at 2007 levels, while sponsorship actually grew. Budgets were lower, resulting in less multiple day bookings and fewer guests, but our corporate clients continue to see real value in entertaining at the carnival. Q: What innovations were introduced for the 2009 carnival? A: Each year we extensively review all products to assess what worked, what didn't and what we can do better. Knowing there was going to be pressure on the corporate dollar but also that people still wanted to attend - perhaps at their own cost - we identified market gaps for a "Premium Economy" enclosure product. The Inner Circuit was subsequently developed for Derby, Cup and Oaks Day. Over 3000 packages were sold, giving customers a stylish enclosure with easy access to all amenities. We also worked with several third party organisations that complimented the VRC's brand, in some cases our sponsors, and leveraged these new channels to get our sales messages out to their networks. Similarly, we continually asked our clients and members for direct referrals. I find that generally people do like to be asked for their opinions, and are often happy to provide introductions. Q: What is Flemington -- The Event Centre? A: In 2004 we decided to strategically leverage our significant infrastructure base, and Flemington - The Event Centre was born to capitalise on the stunning gardens, city skyline views and close CBD proximity for staging events all year round. There are 25 bookable venues, and revenues have since increased seven-fold from $1.3m to over $7 million last year. Flemington has hosted some of Australia's biggest multi-stage musical festivals, including The Big Day Out since 2007. We are an amazingly unique venue and we need to capitalise on this uniqueness. Q: Has sustainability been a key platform of your corporate strategy? A: Yes, we are totally committed to achieving the highest environmental standards in event and venue management. Under our Flemington Green Fields program, the Victorian Racing Club is making a tangible reduction to its environmental footprint. AGL Energy provide 100 per cent renewable GreenPower for all race days, Cleanevent and VISY recycle over 80 per cent of all event waste with no recyclables going to landfill. SecondBite together with Peter Rowland and our other on-course caterers distribute 2700 tonnes of food to people in need, representing 5400 meals. The VRC has invested in making our own linen which can be used year-round, and constructed fit-out pieces such as counters, bars and feature pieces that can be reused in future years. We've also moved from floral table centrepieces to interesting designer objects. Q: What's in store this year to commemorate the Emirates Melbourne Cup's 150th anniversary? I'm sworn to secrecy, but the official launch is in the first week of February when all will be revealed. There is a very exciting program of events planned that will not only touch Victoria, Australia, but internationally as well. Will let you know! ISES members are international, connected and creative. Victoria, NSW, QLD and Hong Kong hold monthly events, next to be in February 2010; nonmembers are welcome to attend to find out more. www.ises.org.au for further information.