ABOUT two thirds of Australians don't watch the Melbourne Cup, data released today shows.
And the troubling news for organisers of Australia's iconic race is the figure may not be about to improve, with the declining rate of interest over the past decade sharpest among people aged under 35.
The Roy Morgan Research survey shows that in the year to June 2013, just one in three Australians aged 14+ (34%) said they watch the Melbourne Cup on TV "almost always or occasionally", down from 38% 10 years ago.
When the gates swing open for the start of the race tomorrow, Australians under 35 will most likely continue doing whatever they were doing, the data suggests. Just 16%of 14-24-year-olds (down from 26% in 2003) and 25% of 25-34 year-olds (down from 35%) say they watch the Cup on TV.
Even the most avid watchers, Australians aged 50-plus, began tuning out from 2007-2011 but are now back up, with 44% watching.
Roy Morgan Research media and communications general manager George Pesutto said it was vital for brand marketers to carefully monitor changing trends in viewership to determine if their target market is actually tuning in.
""The Melbourne Cup may be an iconic national sporting event but Australians-under 35 especially are less likely now than ten years ago to watch the race on TV," Mr Pesutto said.
"Perhaps it should be re-dubbed as 'the race that stops an ever-shrinking proportion of the nation while the vast majority go about their normal business'."
The research shows those who watch the race on TV are more likely to know who sponsors it.
In the 12 months to June 2012, 22% of Australians overall associated Emirates with the Melbourne Cup-ranging from 26% of 35-49 year-olds to just 9% of the Under-25s. Over 10 years since it sponsored the race, Foster's is still associated with the Cup by around 5% of Australians.
In Victoria, where Cup Day is a public holiday, overall TV viewership remains above the national average at 40%, although it's also down slightly from 43% in 2003.
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