As just reported, the NY Times delivered a pretty strong diss to the economics of Comic-Con, and I’m sure con vets and observers will be responding very soon, as Marvel’s CB Cebulski already did:

In the meantime, the Bonfire Agency’s founding partner Steve Rotterdam</strong> penned a response for the Beat. The Bonfire Agency specializes in crafting ad campaigns to the geek demo, so they have some thoughts on branding strategies in general:

Sadly, the NYTimes article reflects the writers’ misunderstanding of the relationship the brands cited have with pop culture consumers, in general, and SDCC attendees, in particular.  Most of the brands cited in the article are, in fact, returnees and many have extended their sponsorships to other pop culture “superfan” conventions throughout North America. More importantly, these brands have come to know that overt, hard-sell, commerce-before-content posturing and tactics at such events not only do not work with attendees, but have a tendency to backfire – particularly in the social realm. So what is dismissed by the writers as laid-back soft sell is, in fact, the best strategy for success when sailing through fan-infested waters.  

Be it at the San Diego Comic-Con or at a local comic shop, brand support that smartly celebrates the passions of the geek demographic pays off in increased brand awareness, loyalty and word of mouth.  Because when brands like Hyundai, Dr Pepper, Pizza Hut, Schick, MAC Cosmetics and Uber help superfans better connect to what it is they care about, they better position themselves with these discriminating, socially influential consumers for when the time comes to buy.

One thing the writers did get right. Compared to attendees of other conventions and trade shows held in San Diego, attendees at Comic-Con don’t spend as much to wine and dine themselves at area restaurants. First of all, the majority of them don’t arrive with expense accounts.  More importantly, they prefer to direct their indulgences and dollars to the dealers and vendors on the exhibit floor.


  1. It’s totally ridiculous – the NY Times is saying that SDCC attendees don’t spend enough money? Do they not realize that the people who go to the con are COMIC BOOK FANS, and not doctors, or lawyers, or any other kind of professional? Of course they’re eating whatever cheap food they can find – they’re not on a bloody expense account!!

  2. The NY Times does articles like this this that seen aimed at enflaming response rather than offering a true balanced observation.

    What the article illustrates is a lack of understanding (by choice?) as to what Comic Con, or any fan convention is. Comparing SDCC to the Golden Globes is ridiculous when you really pay attention to the focus of the two events. Comic Com is an event for the fans to connect with what they’re passionate about, be that comics, movies, books, toys , etc. The Golden Globes is an event for the press.

    “Low rent”? “No spending power”? Maybe the writer should have asked the mayor of San Diego about that. He said in interviews over the weekend that the convention brings in about $175 Million to the area and is without question their biggest annual event.

  3. “are COMIC BOOK FANS, and not doctors, or lawyers, or any other kind of professional….”

    WHAT? I’m a professional. And I’m a comic book fan. At my last comic store the CEO of a Fortune 100 company had a pull list. We also had a couple NFL players with pull lists. Not every comic book fan is a ‘poor college student’.

    I’m not arguing the original writer’s case, but some of the counter-arguments are ridiculous.

  4. If the NY Times goes by attendance, which I heard a news outlet say 130,000 over the four day period, and use their own $603 number, then that’s $62,000,000 right there. I guess that’s chump change. Plus, they don’t factor in that other conventions don’t normally have things for sale inside the actual event, as SDCC does. With lodging, I’d imagine that’s where the bulk of their spending income goes to. Pretty lame article.

  5. At a restaurant near the convention center, a worker told me extra staff was brought in because Comic-Con is the busiest time of the year for bars and restaurants in Downtown San Diego.

  6. The NY Times has a yearly thing of writing negative articles about SDCC. Just do a google search and you’ll find that going back around 7 years they’ll put out an article right around the time of the Con, trying to diminish the significance of SDCC. The East Coast media has always looked down upon things back West. Their elitist and they want everything important to be held on the East Coast. Look at sports. Media coverage of East coast teams always overshadow west coast teams. Comic book publishing started on the East coast so to them having a comic book convention on the west coast overshadow and dominate the news media is an insult to them.

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