Marquee Madness! What Celebrities Get Paid To Appear At The Spring Carnival

Mel B inside the Lavazza marquee.
Mel B inside the Lavazza marquee.

It’s that time of year again when all eyes are glued on Flemington for the Melbourne Cup Carnival. The 4 days showcase some of the best horse racing in the world, but it’s also what happens off the track that piques the public’s interest.

The marquees, the celebrities, the fashion; They all play a huge part of the carnival. Companies spend large amounts of money for prime real estate on ‘Millionaries Row’, the place to be at the track. However, they spend a lot more on fitting out the marquee’s themselves. At this years carnival, coffee company Lavazza has constructed a 3 story masterpiece with sounds by DJ Roger Sanchez, while champagne company G.h. Mumm’s lavish marquee is serving $700 bottles of bubbly. Each year, marquees aim to out do each other with exquisite menus designed by world renowned chefs and mixologists (who are often flown in), while attracting the most popular celebrities available. However, these come at a cost.

It is a common myth that the racing club pays for the celebrities to attend the carnival. This

A rendering of the inside of Lexus' marquee this year.
A rendering of the inside of Lexus’ marquee this year.

is untrue. It’s the companies behind the marquees, and they pay big.

At 2011’s carnival Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker made an appearance in the Crown marquee. While no figure was released, industry analysts suggested a figure of around $250,000, not including incidentals, transport and accommodation. For that price, Sarah appeared on Oaks Day and did some press for her new film (where she mentioned Crown). It is highly likely she appeared at another function run by Crown as well. The result is her photo beamed around the world appearing in countless magazines standing behind the company’s logo. It’s all about the PR. Kim Kardashian famously pulled out of her appearance at the Swisse Marquee the same year, which probably generated more press than had she actually honored her attendance. Figures of $150,000 were quoted for her appearance, though the company claims it was much less. Kim said she would appear for the company at a later date.

At this year’s carnival, the hottest celebrity to grace the carnival is supermodel Naomi Campbell. Paid a reported $60,000 by Lexus, she appeared in their marquee on Derby Day, and is scheduled to appear at the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Former Spice Girl Mel B (Scary Spice) is back in Melbourne for Lavazza, who also paid a reported $60,000 for her presence. Mel tweeted to her 800,000+ followers how much fun she is having in the marquee, sending out a photo of her standing in front of the company’s billboard. That is what Lavazza are paying for, and it would not surprise me if that was part of the deal.

Other celebrities making an appearance this year include former The Hills’ stars Brody Jenner and Whitney Port (both appearing in the Lavazza marquee), Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton and burlesque dancer Dita Von Tesse. While these celebrities won’t command a fee as high as Naomi and Mel B, they would still be compensated significantly for their appearances. A fee ranging between $10,000-$30,000 would be paid for their services, plus incidentals.

You may wonder about former Miss Australia Jennifer Hawkins, as she is always seen in the Myer marquee. Jennifer has an overall deal with Myer, and an appearance in the marquee would be part of that.

The carnival is all about being seen, giving these brands an opportunity to dominate the social pages. Tickets cannot be bought, so the PR teams of Australia’s lesser known celebrities will be working around the clock in hopes their clients will snare a ticket. If their is a bidding war for a local star then they may command a small fee, though usually they attend to raise their own profile. Celebrities are secured a long time out from the carnival, with marketing teams working their plans around their presence come November.


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