Publishers pursue fan culture at Comic-Con

New York Comic-Con has grown into a sprawling behemoth, with organizers expecting 260,000 people to attend over the course of its four-day run. So publishers are cuddling up to it as a marketing platform.

For digital entertainment company Ellation, Comic-Con is a no-brainer for its anime brand Crunchyroll and animation channel VRV. Ellation has a booth promoting Crunchyroll Games, its newly launched mobile gaming business,  and a few blocks away, a pop-up called VRV HQ, where visitors can browse content from the animation studio GKIDS, look through sculptures inspired by VRV’s programming, and even take a selfie in a giant bowl of cereal.

“Our worldview for both brands is to be ‘everything to someone,’ not ‘something for everyone,’” said Joellen Ferrer, Ellation’s vp of communications. “Video is our core and where it all began, but we’re continuing to build out more robust activations for fans to connect in real life.”

Syfy Wire, the comic news publisher which is trying to turn itself into a hub for geek culture news, ran an ambitious live-streaming program at this year’s New York Comic-Con, with four simultaneous streams from the exhibition’s stages. In the coming weeks, producers will cut the streams down into individual segments, which it will distribute on its owned sites as well as on YouTube.

“NYCC is a great way not only to reach the 200,000-plus fans here but to extend the brand to viewers who are experiencing the Con at home,” said Jodi Arden, vp brand marketing and promotions at USA Network & SYFY.

In years past, publishers would sell advertisers the chance to sponsor coverage of an event like NYCC. Today, publishers offer that coverage in a very different format. New York Media, for example, got all its coverage of New York Comic-Con sponsored this year by Citizen, the watchmaker.

Publishers looking to market themselves here face enormous competition. The show floor will house 900 exhibitors, plus 500 comic book artists in a separate area, called artists alley.

On some level, that gives publishers license to go big, thanks in part to brands’ growing appetite for experiential activations. The geek culture site Fandom, for example, had a food truck on site for a fifth consecutive year, giving away free comic-themed snacks. But it went one step further this year, launching a live trivia game, Fandom Feud, centered around beloved franchises ranging from Harry Potter to Voltron. The game show was sponsored by Toyota.

“The ante has been upped,” said Ryan Coan, the founder of Creative Riff, an experiential agency that’s created Comic-Con activations for brands including Hulu and FX. “What’s happening outside the convention floor is reaching such an insane level.”

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