Boags Draught have created a bold, big budget campaign around the Melbourne cup, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The ‘Greatest Cup Never Run’ will be a virtual animated race with 24 of the most famous Melbourne Cup winners digitally represented.

The race will be broadcast by Channel Seven on Melbourne Cup day between races five and six, and Boags Draught claim there should be around 700 million people tuned in worldwide.

The race will feature computer animated versions of Phar Lap, Makybe Diva, Doriemus, Poseidon, and other champions from the last 149 years, with the race placing determined by a panel of Australian racing officials, handicappers, stewards and journalists, based on variables including weight, barrier and jockey.

The virtual event is already being heavily promoted with TVCs, new racing themed beer packaging, and a dedicated microsite.

Consumers are encouraged to buy the racing theme packaged Boags Daught 6-packs and cartons, which include a trifecta of horse names under every bottle cap. Buyers who have a trifecta that matches up with the winning trifecta of the virtual race win a share in $150,000.

“I’ve always loved that idea,” says Geoffrey Bowll ‘Captain’ of Melbourne advertising agency Starship and regular Marketing magazine columnist. “Do you know what I mean when I say I’ve always loved that idea? It’s been done a million times. I’ve been in pubs in Dubbo where they’ve done the fake horse race. It’s was awful then and it will be awful now.”

“It doesn’t have an ounce of originality, it’s just a poor little copywriter. It’s been nice, they’ve dragged them out of high school, this is the first gig they’ve got and they’ve gone ‘wow look at this, how’s this for an idea’, not knowing the last time someone dragged it out and kicked the dust off it was about 12 years ago. Most of the audience has seen the idea before.”

Bowll says another issue with the execution is that it represents yet another change up in Boags’ promotional positioning.

“The original Boags positioning, and we loved it dearly, was sexy young man being stalked/seduced by older hot female, and that was a reasonable positioning. And then ‘Who is James Boag?’ was good for awareness, and we liked that one too. Then they went to the weird one where the guy was in the river and it was talking about how great the Tasmanian water is, and that was okay. Every time they change advertising agencies, the new agency manages to tell them they need to completely change the brand. It’s like one minute Coke is a fun drink, the next it’s a health drink, and the next minute its going to be the thing that fixes your headache, but Coke aren’t that stupid…Consistency and brand direction is everything for a product.”

Bowll also suggested more audience participation to help determine the result in some way, and thought Boags should have got a co-sponsor in Sportsbet or Betstar, and sponsorship from BandAid for race scratchings.

The campaign recalls the plot of Rocky VI. In Rocky Balboa, Stallone’s retired boxing legend faces off against a current champion in a simulated fight on ESPN. The fight, which Rocky wins, inspires the ex-champ to come out of retirement and fight the young champ in real life. Rocky loses, but he learns he can still roll with the best. The only question for Boags, then, is…will Phar Lap come out of retirement?

Lion Nathan did not make someone available for comment before deadline.