In June this year, J&B announced that after 39 years of being headline sponsors of the J&B Met in Cape Town, it would no longer be partnering with the horse racing event.

“This has not been an easy decision, but we feel this is right for the brand,” said Jeff Milliken, managing director of Diageo SA, local distributor of J&B.

Premium champagne brand G.H.Mumm, which entered the South African market almost three years ago and has grown exponentially in popularity in the country, is taking the reins from the whisky brand.

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We had the opportunity to sit down with G.H. Mumm’s brand manager, Etienne Cassuto, to talk about the partnership and the new, unique things we can expect.

“The Met came onto our table a couple of months ago, and we entered into discussions with Sun International and found in them the best partners anyone could find,” Cassuto told us. “They acquired the commercial rights of the Met to be able to add to the massive calendar of events they do.

“Globally, Mumm is involved with Australia in the Melbourne Cup, in the United States with the Kentucky Derby and in New Zealand with the Auckland Cup. So when the Met came to the table, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bring what we did globally to a South African audience.”

Cassuto explained that Mumm aims to bring back the prestige and glamour of horse racing in a more avant-garde way.

“You can expect us to challenge the perceived codes and bring some flair to the traditional horse racing event,” he said. “You can expect some out-of-this-world things that will disrupt what people have thought of the Met for the past few years. Also, Cape Town needed an invigoration of this iconic event, and I believe we’re on track to make that happen.”

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Cassuto said that when Mumm entered the country, its challenge was to introduce the brand to consumers, and focused on doing exactly that. The company has now realised that it needs to provide consumers with an anchor event they can identify the brand with, and build the rest of the year around that event.

“Now we’ve found that event, and for the next three years, and ongoing years after that, the Met will become the pillar for Mumm’s activity in South Africa,” he explained. “Everything we do will revolve around the various lifestyle themes that are associated with horse racing. Then we’ll make it live beyond just the day.

“We’ve come into this partnership with a long-term vision and we want to build this as long-term sustainable growth for the brand and the property of the Met.”

The event has been renamed The Sun Met, celebrated with Mumm, and is set to take place on 28 January 2017 at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town.