The spring racing carnival reaches a crescendo tomorrow with the running of the 150th Melbourne Cup, but it is not merely the horseflesh that draws media attention. With more than 1700 local and foreign accredited media, and swarms of PR and marketing operatives, the carnival has quietly become Australia’s premier branding exercise.

And few do it better than naming sponsor Emirates Airlines, with its luxurious marquee and a swathe of A-list guests, handpicked by event manager Judy Romano (who has looked over the Emirates tent since 1997) and one of Australia’s PR leaders, Anne Morrison, Emirates has almost created its luxury brand in Australia on the back of racing. The $3000-plus per head Emirates marquee dominates Millionaire’s Row in Flemington’s Birdcage enclosure sitting alongside Myer, Tabcorp and Swiss bank UBS, which appears to have rebounded from the perils of the GFC with a styling marquee over-looking the track. On Derby Day, Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visited the Emirates marquee while his uncle, Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is expected tomorrow