This article was produced in association with Visit Victoria
Melbourne’s success in winning the Best Event Strategy and Best Large City Awards in this year’s SportBusiness Ultimate Sports Cities Awards will have come as little surprise to those who have seen the Victorian capital triumph on many occasions since the awards were introduced back in 2006.
But this year’s success has to be put into context and may have been all the sweeter as it was the first since the job of attracting major events to Melbourne shifted to Visit Victoria, the organisation responsible for all aspects of the State’s tourism business.
Melbourne is, of course, a true ‘sport’ city. In any given year it hosts a glorious array of international and domestic sports events from Australian Rules football, which has its historical roots in the state, to the Formula One Australian Grand Prix and tennis’ Australian Open.
Sport is part of the city’s identity and its iconic stadia and grand prix circuit are known to fans around the world. In the highly-competitive tourism business, major sports events are a key attraction but, it should be stressed, are only part of the proposition for a city and state which prides itself on the range and diversity of events and attractions it has to offer.
It was the opportunity to pull these threads together which led Peter Bingeman to become the inaugural chief executive of Visit Victoria when it was launched in 2016. With a background in international fast-moving consumer goods marketing and a knowledge of Australia’s neighbouring Asian markets, Bingeman says that while Visit Victoria’s predecessors Tourism Victoria and Victorian Major Events Company were “two teams each doing a great job”, there was an advantage to be gained by bringing them together.
“We wanted to tell the story of Melbourne and Victoria through its events in a more marketing-driven and creative way,” he said.
Tourism is seriously important to the Victorian economy and Visit Victoria has a target of generating A$36.5bn per year by 2025 which Bingeman says is “well within our grasp.”
“In fact,” he says, “tourism is growing at twice the rate of the overall Victorian economy and has increased by A$6.4bn in the last three and a half years.”
“We have three target segments: the international market, Australia and Victoria itself,” Bingeman explained.
“And we are seeing growth across all those segments, in particular internationally from India, China and South East Asia, where we have recently run targeted marketing campaigns.”
The fact is that Visit Victoria has great raw material to work with. It’s not only a global sports hub but, as Bingeman puts it, “the creative and cultural capital of Australia and Asia”.
“This is a ‘to do’ city where you can come out of your hotel and whether you turn right or left you’ll discover a choice of things to do, from sport during the day to cultural events and great cuisine in the evening.
“Of course, we have a wonderful sports infrastructure and sport accounts for about 50 per cent of our major event-based tourism activity and spend. We pride ourselves on a calendar of events – both sport and non-sport – which stretches right across the year and adds to the tapestry of the city,” he said.
Ensuring the Melbourne and Victoria product remains world class is a key element of the marketing story. A A$1bn, three-phase project to enhance facilities at Melbourne Park, home of tennis’ Australian Open and the adjacent Olympic Park which houses the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground as well as the AMI Park, the 30,000-seat stadium which is home to the city’s two soccer clubs, is currently underway. The result is a greatly-enhanced and more cohesive experience for visitors to either the Melbourne Park or Olympic Park areas.
Across town, the State government has pledged over A$200m to develop the AFL-owned Etihad Stadium, extending the precinct to link it to the Central Business District.
According to Bingeman,the investments add value to the visitor experience and will help Visit Victoria to fulfil its objective of not simply hosting events but building long-term partnerships with the events and their owners.
Q&A with Damien de Bohun, general manager, major events, Visit Victoria
How has Victoria’s strategy toward major events developed in recent times?
Victoria is focused on acquiring the ‘best of the best’, to ensure that we maintain and develop our position as a major events city. We are committed to positioning ourselves alongside London, New York and Paris.
The Victorian Major Events Company was a world-leading agency and Visit Victoria’s mandate expands on their work. We are both a major events company and a great tourism marketing organisation.
Our strategy now sees us not only secure and manage a world-class major-events calendar, but also to use those acquisitions to tell the story of Melbourne globally, highlighting the depth and breadth of the experiences available to those that visit our great city and the state of Victoria.
How do you sum up the offer to sporting federations, event-owners and rights-holders?
We present ourselves as genuine partners to sporting federations, event-owners and rights-holders.
If you look back at the Brazil v Argentina football match two years ago, the upcoming Australian Boomers v Team USA basketball series and our formidable calendar of golf, you’ll note that we are working collaboratively in everything that we do.
In 2020, Melbourne will host the men’s and women’s final of the ICC World Twenty20 at the MCG.
We are in regular communication with the local organising committee to ensure a hand-in-glove approach to developing marketing programs that ensure that their success is our success. This is the cornerstone of everything that we do.
A partnership with Visit Victoria not only provides you with access to some of the best sporting facilities in the world, it provides you with an extension of your communications and marketing team, dedicated to selling out your event to not only Melburnians, but the thousands of visitors that come to our city from around Australia and the world every year.
How does Visit Victoria partner with sporting federations, event-owners and rights-holders to build their brand, as well as ‘brand Melbourne’?
The most important thing to understand when working to build the brand of Melbourne, and that of our event partners, is knowing what sporting federations, event-owners and rights-holders are looking for through their relationship with Visit Victoria.
One thing that we do carefully is take time at the front end of the partnership to understand why they are bringing their event to Melbourne and how we can support achieving their desired aims.
Obviously, every event acquisition is predominantly commercial in nature, but nowadays they are also so much more than that.
It is about making our city their city. And when do that we see fabulous results for the event we are hosting and for Melbourne that relishes the outstanding contribution that major events make to our visitor economy.
What new events are in the pipeline and why are they exciting?
Melbourne is fortunate enough to have a number of, what we call ‘pillar events’ and these continue to move from strength to strength.
The Australian Open Tennis Championships, the Formula One Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup Carnival are three global events that feature on our calendar every year and their ongoing expansion and development continues to ensure the increase of their economic impact, which is wonderful.
These will be complemented in the near future by the Australian Boomers facing the USA men’s national basketball team in 2019, at the purpose-built court at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium. It is soon to be renamed Marvel Stadium, and what a spectacle it will be to see our national basketball team take on the world’s best as they make final preparations for the Fiba World Cup in China.
Melbourne is also set to host the 2018 World Cup of Golf, before the Presidents Cup returns here next year. This is a coup and complements the Melbourne Sandbelt, a stunning array of eight world-class courses on the fringe of the city centre.
The Australian Open of Golf returns to Melbourne in 2020 and 2022, with Melbourne fast becoming a home of golf in Australia for both professional events and those seeking travel experiences of the sporting variety.
Melbourne’s major-event calendar does not stop at sport either. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open exclusively here in February, direct from London and New York, before Come From Away takes to the stage at the Comedy Theatre in our East End Theatre District.
Of course, there are several other opportunities we are exploring, with exciting new announcements always on the horizon in Melbourne.
Are there any new facilities in the pipeline and how will they enhance Melbourne’s offer to sporting federations, event-owners and rights-holders?
One thing that Melbourne has always been proud of is its sporting precinct and this array of stadia was recently recognised by your team at SportBusiness, via the Ultimate Sport Cities Awards.
We are not resting on our laurels though. The Victorian Government has for decades invested in the facilities that allow us to acquire the best events and this continues.
Our 55,000-seat stadium at Docklands, which is multi-purpose and enclosed, is set for a more than A$200m upgrade that will ensure its continued position as one of Australia’s best, playing host to regular Australian Rules football matches and special events that can welcome up to 70,000 people when the field of play becomes available for seating. It will be technologically masterful, embracing the ‘e-generation’ event goer.
Melbourne Park is another example of continued rejuvenation. The Australian Open Tennis Championships, one of only four grand slam events alongside those held in London, New York and Paris, is now being revitalised to include state-of-the-art media and broadcast facilities; new dining options; pedestrian thoroughfares; and exciting new precincts that expand the footprint of events held at what was originally the 1956 Olympic Park.
What are Melbourne’s event-hosting ambitions in the years ahead?
Melbourne is dedicated to maintaining its position as a global event city and we will continue to acquire events that support this.
That is everything from the Olympic Games to one-off opportunities that celebrate experiences unrivalled.
We are a global event city that embraces major events – both sport and creative – better than almost any city on earth and we are committed to being bigger, bolder and braver with the way we bring the events we have acquired to life.
In the words of our partners…
Matt Kamienski, vice-president, PGA Tour and executive director, Presidents Cup:
“PGA Tour have a longstanding relationship with Melbourne and the Victorian Government through the Victorian Major Events Company, and now, Visit Victoria. We’ve had the great pleasure of bringing the world’s best golfers to one of the world’s true major events cities, including the World Cup of Golf and the Presidents Cup – and both are set to return to the famed Sandbelt in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“The efforts of Visit Victoria to collaborate with the PGA Tour in bringing our major events to life both in Australia and around the world make them an obvious partner. That’s why we have been here so many times, and why we will always look to come back.”
Nick Hockley, chief executive, 2020 ICC World Twenty20:
“Throughout the venue selection process, the team at Visit Victoria bought into the vision and opportunity to make the ICC World T20 a spectacular celebration that everyone can be part of.”
“They also quickly identified the importance of the women’s and men’s tournaments having equal billing, with both finals to be played at Australia’s biggest sporting stadium, the MCG. Melbourne’s track record for hosting and supporting major sporting events is a key part of the ambition to set a new world record for the highest attendance at a women’s sporting event.”
“Major events of this scale are all about teamwork. Visit Victoria has a key role to play in helping bring together key partners and the community as well giving a warm welcome to the many international visitors who will be coming to Australia in 2020.”
Anthony Moore, chief executive, Basketball Australia:
“To bring the USA men’s basketball team to compete against our Australian Boomers on home soil is a bold move by Basketball Australia, and Visit Victoria is a major event agency daring enough to come on the journey with us. The event is now confirmed and less than one year away.
“Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium is the perfect venue for what will be a moment in Australian sporting history and Visit Victoria have been a great partner as we make a concerted effort to develop, deliver, market and communicate a two-match series to the thousands of basketball and sports fans found in Melbourne, across Australia and around the world.”