Culture On The Field: The importance of cultural inclusivity for your next major event

Culture On The Field: The importance of cultural inclusivity for your next major event

Bastion Insight’s Head of Cross-Culture, Isabel Zhang and a group of multicultural business leaders brought culture to Melbourne Cup this year in an effort to show that The Race That Stops The Nation can encompass all constituents of our growing population.

With over 7.3 million Australians born overseas, Australia’s heritage events can no longer afford to only appeal to the traditional version of the population. Maintaining an awareness of cultural diversity is key in ensuring recent immigrants feel welcomed and motivated to attend major events. 

Victoria Racing Club is a great example of this, having recently updated its famously strict dress code to include cultural attire. This adjustment enabled the Bastion Insights Cross-Cultural team of proud Chinese Australians to attend as ‘cultural ambassadors’ to represent both countries they identify with at this year’s Melbourne Cup.

For over 150 years Fashions on the Field has been a historical part of Melbourne Cup and for the first time ever, this year included entrants in their traditional cultural attire. Isabel and 6 of her colleagues entered the competition and although not winners, it was a historic moment. 

“We feel privileged and proud to represent our culture and heritage in our traditional outfits. And thank you, Myer, for having us and giving us this opportunity. Even though we didn’t win, we felt profoundly proud,” said Isabel Zhang.   


The hardest part of attending the Melbourne Cup in traditional attire was the fear of embarrassment of not fitting in the expected “norm”. Our studies show that 1 in 5 Chinese migrants do feel out of place in Australia, and 4 in 10 feel Australian but don’t feel that others would see them as Australians. 

As much as we feel we are Australians, we were feeling rather unsure and overwhelmed at times standing out from the crowd for this meaningful cause. Having said that, we thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous day and we felt extremely welcomed and belong. It’s wasn’t easy but it did end up feeling great coming out of our comfort zones and being proud of our heritage,” said Zhang.

What are brands doing to be more culturally inclusive at events?

Events are all about experience and there are definitely brands making a more conscious effort to engage culturally diverse audiences. The AFL has once again locked in their annual match in China, with teams playing in Shanghai in 2020. 

In 2018 the Australian Open partnered with leading Chinese Baijiu brand Luzhou Laojiao, enhancing the diversity of food and drink experiences at the AO. Marketing to different communities requires more than just simple translation; Formula 1 Australia works with the local Chinese community to ensure all their ticketing and packages are easy to understand. 

With so many brands spending big overseas to appeal to a new market, how can you and your business capitalise on Australia’s local population? Chinese Australians influence and shape perceptions of brands to the Chinese in China. There is a symbiotic relationship with both the local and native Chinese, seeking to validate their authenticity with one another. The rapidly growing multicultural population in Australia presents an enormous opportunity for Australian businesses. But more businesses still need to develop the skills and knowledge required to capitalise on the opportunity. 

“As your unpaid brand referrers and advocates, the result of engaging them locally will amplify your brand to the families and friends they have back home. That will create much more ‘stickiness’ to your brand and your marketing efforts!”

The Chinese community, in particular, are proud and don’t react lightly to embarrassment or insult. Dolce and Gabbana are still struggling to overcome a backlash that erupted in November last year over a tone-deaf marketing video and derogatory comments from co-founder Stefano Gabbana about the Chinese. A boycott on the mainland followed that threatened to eradicate one of fashion’s biggest names.

Hosting a culturally inclusive event isn’t just about avoiding the negative, it’s giving a platform to all cultures and ensuring that all members of Australia’s changing population are represented and welcome. Bastion Insights’ Cross-Cultural team is here to help. Get in touch before organising your next major event.


Want to know more about Cross-Cultural Insights? Get in touch with Bastion Insights’ Head of CCI, Isabel Zhang or read our blog on how to create a Chinese-targeted marketing strategy.

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