Events that cater to superfans, such as Comic-Con and Disney’s 23, face an interesting challenge. These events attract people who bond over their shared passions, such as their love of comic-book culture, superheroes, and, in the case of D23, a brand.
The superfans bring passion and interest, but they also bring high expectations, and an arcane knowledge of your product or experience. If you get the details wrong, superfans will know. My recent experience at the Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix D.C. illustrates how an event can honor superfans by celebrating their different passions.
Let me give you a little context about Magic: The Gathering. Created in 1993, Magic is widely acknowledged as the first collectable trading card game. Two or more players use a deck of lavishly illustrated, fantasy based trading cards to face off in epic matches that involve casting spells, summoning up creatures, and outmaneuvering your opponent. More than 20 million people, including me, play Magic with our friends and family. And the really dedicated players travel from around the world to participate for money and glory in formal tournaments such as Grand Prix D.C.
I’ve been playing Magic for years and attending tournaments, too, with a couple of my friends. Together, we participate in tournaments as a team. In March, we traveled to Washington, D.C., for the largest Magic tournament of its type, which brought together thousands of players from around the world.
The 3,300 attendees at the 2016 event included many others who attended for different reasons. The 2016 Grand Prix D.C. was a success because it tapped into the diverse nature of our passions. Here are some of the types of fans the event catered to:
This is the majority of event attendees. Gamers just love to play the game, even if they don’t win. (I’m probably best categorized as a gamer.) When gamers are not playing, they watch others play. The Grand Prix D.C. event definitely catered to the gamers.
For instance, the event celebrated the gamers by publicizing the victories and round-by-round advancements such as the NCAA does for the March Madness championship. The event organizers also set up “Feature Match Areas,” where top players played each other. These games were streamed online on outlets like Twitch.tv and included commentators describing the action for anyone streaming the action online.
As a smaller, yet no less passionate group of attendees, fantasy fans love the different storylines occurring in the game — the drama of the combat and the journeys of the characters within the game’s mythos. Fantasy fans love to play, of course, but they are also fascinated by the storytelling aspect of the game. The Grand Prix D.C. provided plenty of ways to keep the fantasy fans engaged. For instance, professional cosplayers (people who dress up as characters) along with amateur cosplayers interacted with the audience, which injected a sense of theater into the event. For some attendees, seeing them in person is like interacting with a Magic card in real life.
Collectors and Traders
Collectors and traders are like baseball card enthusiasts or pin traders at Disney: they get immersed in the merchandise. And it’s easy to see why — some of the harder-to-find playing cards sell for thousands of dollars. The event accommodated these fans by permitting informal trading among participants and also by designating a section for merchants to sell everything from cards to artwork.
The artwork created for cards is highly coveted by collectors and traders, and some of the artists have become famous in their own right. There is a section of the hall dedicated to featured artists from Magic’s 20+ year history, who will sign and even customize cards for players.
The Importance of Professionalism
These Magic subcultures I just described are just a few of the types of superfans that the Grand Prix D.C. accommodated. Regardless of our reasons for attending, the Grand Prix D.C. made us feel special. One other important element stood out, too… the quality of the event. The event was well organized, and the rounds were well paced and moderated by excellent judges. Magic superfans may not get the same attention that Super Bowl teams do, but we expect Super Bowl-level quality, and Grand Prix D.C. delivered.
Are you a superfan of any particular game or cultural phenomenon? Do you attend events for superfans? I’d love to hear about your experiences. And if you play Magic, I hope to see you at a tournament soon.
For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Image source: http://magic.wizards.com