Fan Expo lets geek flag fly

The event's first Pride activation is part of a slate of initiatives to be more welcoming to LGBTQ and younger attendees.

FXCPRID19T-5773With a quarter century under its superhero belt buckle, FAN EXPO Canada is marking the occasion with two campaigns that tout a message of inclusivity and reach out to a younger demo.

FAN EXPO Canada is an annual convention held that celebrates nerd culture from comics, TV, gaming and sci-fi. Its attendance has grown year over year, and now welcomes over 130,000 attendees at the main show in Toronto. Appropriately for an event that celebrates fandom, it handed out thousands of branded paper fans to help Toronto Pride March participants cool off, while also giving them a special offer to attend FAN EXPO Canada.

This was FAN EXPO’s first year participating at Pride, according to Gilbert Estephan, senior show manager at FAN EXPO Canada. “Our campaign was focused on celebrating superheroes, freedom fighters and Comic Con culture that paved the way for inclusive environment for artists, and creators of all ages.”

While inclusivity has been a persistent issue at similar conventions, Estephan tells strategy that FAN EXPO Canada has always strived to be an inclusive event. He says building more overt engagement with LGBTQ communities is something the brand wanted to forge, and there is already a lot of overlap between nerd culture and the drag queen community.

The Pride activation is part of a broader slate of creative launched to celebrate FAN EXPO Canada’s 25th anniversary. For a “Fan First” video, set to be released next week, FAN EXPO approached event attendees in March, decked out in cosplays as characters from franchises Super Mario and Ghostbusters, to hold up thought bubbles showing what the event means to them.

The brand worked with Unikron, a Toronto based video agency, to produce all videos for its campaigns and handled all other creative elements in-house.

“We are putting fans at the driver’s seat of what we do. At the end of the day, it’s an event for the fans to experience,” says Pina Russo, marketing director for FAN EXPO Canada. She says that while the event draws cast members from TV shows and other parts of pop cultures, it’s also about meeting like-minded fans, celebrating local comic artists and giving younger fans a chance to meet face-to-face with 200 comic creators (young cosplayers are prominently featured in both print and digital ads).

Russo says more younger people are looking to break into the world FAN EXPO represents, whether that means being developing video games, making comics or writing. What’s surprised the brand, Russo says, is that kids are also excited about the pop culture figures that influenced their parents.

Fan Expo is also an approved vendor with the Toronto District School Board, Russo says, and inserts offers to attend the August event in mid-term and year-end report cards, targeting 285,000 students. There’s also a STEM component that gives kids an opportunity to learn at the show. Estephan adds that FAN EXPO Canada just introduced a youth ticket for Comic Con and FAN EXPO, and has seen a big uptick in interest through that avenue as well.