On Saturday, May 13th, I took a trip to a first time comic convention in Ontario, CA. The show, Comic Con Revolution, was being put on by Atomic Crush Entertainment, a new company with lots of experience. Gabe Fieramosco is one of the folks behind the new event and someone I've known through a few other conventions he's worked with over the years. The one-day show was extremely well run and attended and I got a hold of Gabe to find out some of the things that made them choose the location and how they got folks to show up.
DAN WICKLINE: This is the first Comic Con Revolution and the first convention for Atomic Crush Events. But you have experience with previous convention going into this. Who makes up Atomic Crush?
GABE FIERAMOSCO: Atomic Crush Events is made up of partners and co-founders Mike Scigliano, James Ross, Drew Seldin and myself. We all met when we were working on the Wizard World Tour and Scig, James and I worked on the Long Beach Comic Con together. We all bring different facets to the company. Scig handles operations and guest relations, James does the sales, Drew covers press & P.R. and I manage our social media, Cosplay Corner and book a guest or two. And we're all involved in the overall marketing and branding of the con.
For Comic Con Revolution, Geek Chic Promotions along with David Nieves doing programming, who managed to cram 30 hours of panels on a variety of subjects into one day. Arlene So, also a friend from our time at Wizard, does all our graphic design. We also brought in family and friends to work in key spots on the day of the con.
DW: I know you and Scig are East Coast guys, how did you end up choosing Ontario, CA as the place to start the Revolution? Were there any other locations in consideration? What were the strengths of that convention center?
GF: Having worked on LBCC for years we already had tons of relationships in Southern California, creators, vendors, cosplayers, fans, it just made sense to us to try and do something there. We inquired about availability at a few different buildings. There were different factors that went into consideration, dates too close to other cons, did the building fit our needs and other things like that. We really liked the Ontario Convention Center. It's an up to date building with great facilities and the staff was very helpful and accommodating. It's easy to get to and the parking is good. After looking at the different buildings we really thought that the city of Ontario made sense because it didn't seem like there was anything like what we had planned going on in the Inland Empire. Even though California is a crowded market for cons we hoped that we might have found a hole. Also, the date made sense because we were nestled right in between Wondercon and San Diego. Far enough from both that we had our own window.
DW: Most new shows come across like they're going to be huge and do two or three days. You guys did a one-day show. What was behind that decision?
GF: We had talked about that from the start. We saw so many shows make that mistake last year and we didn't want to do the same thing. A lot of times people think you just book a bunch of guests and people throw money at you. It just doesn't work that way. Bad marketing will sink you every time.
Our motto was always not to bite off more than we could chew. Our goal was always to create a fun event without breaking the bank. Scig managed the budget with an iron fist.
Also, Mother's Day was a concern. A lot of people wouldn't be able to do both days, including the vendors and guests. With a two day show it would increase expenses for everyone, both ours and the vendors. Sundays are usually the slower day of a con, but a dead one would have killed the whole weekend, so we figured better a taste this year and next year we'll come back with the full show. In the end, I think the one day really worked out to our benefit. And you don't want mess with Mom's. It's their day.
DW: Now, I was at the show and from my booth there seemed to be a steady flow of attendees all day. What were the final attendance numbers and how did you go about reaching out to fans to get them in the door?
GF: We really got out and beat the bushes and tried to get ourselves in as many places as possible. There was great support from the local comic shops who put out our posters and fliers. Some sold tickets for us.
We did everything from hitting the streets to hitting the worldwide web. After a big bump in sales after a local newspaper story we did some advertising there. We did giveaways with local & internet radio, area mom bloggers, comic stores and the local business development organization. Dave & Buster's, the sponsor of our cosplay contest, handed out our fliers and put up our posters. There were also banner ads through Google Ad Words, local video bloggers like Joel Green from the Inland Empire Explorer got us huge local coverage, and some of our awesome crew got out and hit stores on Free Comic Book Day.
We also relied heavily on social media. We announced Comic Con Revolution on February 1st, so the clock was always ticking. We needed to build our social media profile, and at the same convince people we were legit enough to take a chance on us with only a little over 3 months to do it. And with a limited budget. It was always a race to the finish without spending too much on the gas. To toot my own horn for a second, I was really happy with the feedback I got on our social media when I was out there. Being on the East Coast I don't know what people are seeing on their end in California, so it was good to hear that it had an impact.
Our official attendance number is 5449. That includes paid attendees (adult & teen), free kids tickets, Press & Pro badges, but not Exhibitors.
DW: What were some of the things you learned coming out of the show? Things you'll want to do differently next time?
GF: The biggest thing I learned was the fierce pride people have in being from the Inland Empire. They're really proud of where they're from, and being Jersey proud and growing up in the shadow of New York City you feel overlooked, so I can relate. The biggest thing I heard from people all day was how glad they were that we came to them, close to where they live. They were really excited to have their own con.
You always learn something new at every con and being new to the market there are definitely tweaks we'll want to make for next year. I think the most important thing I learned is that the people of the IE have kind of taken ownership of this thing already, so the pressure is really on us to deliver next year.
DW: What is the future for the Comic Con Revolution and Atomic Crush Events? Have you locked in your dates for Ontario 2018? Will there be other cities on your map soon?
GF: Yes, we have already locked in our dates for Ontario for next year. They are May 19 & 20, 2018. Not only will we be expanding to two days, we will also be using the entire building, both halls A and B. This will allow us to bring in more of everything we did this year. It will also allow us to widen the aisles and allow fans greater ease of movement around the show floor. Two days will also allow us to expand our programming, bring in more guests, new and different vendors, just more fun in general.
Hopefully the future is bright for Atomic Crush and Comic Con Revolution. There is nothing in stone yet. We are going to sit down and talk about that soon. We wanted to focus on not screwing up the first thing before we started thinking about the next. I assume we'll look to do Comic Con Revolution in other places also. As with any con, it will depend on availability of dates, holes in the market and would comic creators want to hang out with us there.
Atomic Crush also offers our services for hire, so now that people have seen what we can do who knows what clients we may find out there, it could be anything.