ComplexCon made its return to the Long Beach Convention Center in California this weekend after a yearlong hiatus due to COVID-19.
The American media and entertainment company pivoted in 2020 to a digital format called ComplexLand, a virtual experience where users could shop for exclusive product drops, attend panel discussions and see performances. This year, the show returned with DJ sets from A-Trak, Zack Bia and Kitty Cash, among others, and performances from guests Turnstile and headliner A$AP Rocky.
Complex tapped Colombian artist J Balvin and KNC Beauty founder Kristen Noel Crawley to join the host committee. Crawley did double duty, hosting her first booth at ComplexCon and offering her collaboration with Champion that sold out multiple styles, according to the founder.
According to Complex officials, the show was sold out on both days, but declined to share detailed figures.
“In comparison to previous years, the foot traffic was a bit lighter but understandable because of COVID-19,” Crawley said. “All in all we had a really fun and successful weekend.”
Complex was only allowing guests who could provide vaccination status or negative COVID-19 tests, and had a testing center on site.
“What felt good about this time around is it was busy enough, but you could actually enjoy the experience,” said Saucony chief marketing officer Fabio Tambosi. Saucony launched a collaboration sneaker with Hommewrk, a label founded by rapper and Full Size Run cohost Trinidad James. Tambosi said products sold out entirely, but he was more focused on the experience itself.
“The entire booth was a classroom,” Tambosi said, “and we had lockers, a teacher’s desk and chalkboard. We gave away notebooks, pencils and dodgeballs.”
Last year’s hiatus gave brands more time to concept their booth space and experience for the weekend such as Kerwin Frost’s cardboard castle where collaborations with Adidas, 7-Eleven and Beats Headphones were available. Designer Joe Freshgoods skipped offering product this time but held meet-and-greets and panel discussions.
The well-known brands also had to compete for this year’s large number of attendees against newbies that aren’t typical streetwear players.
Sponsors Meta, formerly Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, UPS and more set up shop for merch drops and new ways to activate with the younger demographic. Meta and Ray-Ban showcased their partnership wearables, while Amazon and Netflix set up shop to promote their shows.
Amazon created an installation for the Emmy-nominated series “The Boys,” where attendees could win free merchandise by Philadelphia-based artist Distortedd, and for show Fairfax, where Jeff Staple gave a few fans the opportunity to win Staple collaboration sneakers with Nike, Puma and Atmos and New Balance, as well as merchandise apparel.
UPS set up a number of shipping stations and offered complimentary ground shipping to VIP ticket holders as the official shipping partner for ComplexCon.
“ComplexCon is an exciting place for the UPS brand to show up,” said Betsy Wilson, the company’s vice president of digital marketing and brand management. “Not only were we able to reach a really important audience of small businesses and consumers, but also were able to provide [ComplexCon attendees] with a really useful experience and service.”
UPS teamed with the brand Kids of Immigrants to spotlight 13 small businesses at the show for the first time. Wilson said there was a steady queue outside of the booth and the UPS and Kids of Immigrants custom tote collaboration, a gift with purchase, was sold out on both days, as well as a Kids of Immigrants “When Everyone Loves, Everyone Heals” sweatshirt that sold out on the first day within hours.
“The hype was pretty unreal for UPS as a first-time debut at the festival,” Wilson said. “This festival has been on our radar for the past year as we are looking for new ways for the UPS brand to intersect with culture. This is a really exciting time for us, because we recognize that we’ve built equity with consumers over time, but now we are adding new approaches to build relevance and reach a younger, more diverse audience.”
Another player, eBay, a fitting company to be at ComplexCon given its history with sneaker trading, built sneaker installations to showcase collections from DJ Skee, Kicks and Fros founder Melissa Chanel and Kenny Gonzales of @the_perfect_pair on Instagram, as well as a trading card vending machine.
“Our installations were focused on giving back to the community versus selling, so we do not have any sales figures to share,” said Garry Thaniel, general manager of sneakers at eBay, who saw ComplexCon as a way to connect with “Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.”
He continued, “We did have hundreds of people present at our sneakers installations over the course of the weekend, particularly during giveaways. Additionally, we gave away 250 graded trading cards each day in the vending machines and the time slots to secure one were filled within minutes.”