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Exclusive: Complex secures title sponsors for annual event

Sep 26, 2023
Rick Ross performs on Day Two of ComplexCon Chicago at McCormick Place on July 21, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois

Rick Ross at ComplexCon Chicago in 2019. Photo: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

Complex has secured the return of three title sponsors for its annual tentpole event ComplexCon, executives exclusively tell Axios.

Why it matters: Those ad deals are a positive sign for the event's financial performance. That's especially crucial as its parent company BuzzFeed Inc. has struggled on the Nasdaq, resulting in talks of selling Complex.

Details: Held Nov. 18 and 19 in Long Beach, California, the event will attract "tens of thousands" to participate in streetwear drops, enjoy food vendors and listen to panels and music performances, says BuzzFeed's senior vice president of brand partnerships Jeff Mazzacano.

  • Toyota, Espolòn Tequila and eBay are returning as title sponsors. The automaker will sponsor Community Week and an official afterparty. Espolòn's experience is themed to Día de los Muertos and will include limited-edition apparel. The eBay experience is on authenticating luxury goods.
  • The core Complex consumer is a "21- to 34-year-old cool kid that's very much in the know," Mazzacano says. But he adds that it's "a mindset," as ComplexCon is multigenerational, including himself as a 45-year-old bringing along his 15-year-old nephew.

The big picture: BuzzFeed's acquisition of Complex was part of its 2021 SPAC deal that has gone awry.

  • BuzzFeed's valuation has dwindled. Its first-day closing price on Dec. 6, 2021, was $8.56, valuing it at $1.13 billion. It's now trading at $0.30 with a market cap of $42.82 million.
  • It laid off staffers, including Complex executives, and shuttered BuzzFeed News.
  • CEO Jonah Peretti has explored selling parts of Complex like ComplexCon to help pay off debt, per The Information.

By the numbers: ComplexCon started in 2016. This year will be the eighth in-person festival. In 2020, Complex hosted a virtual event called ComplexLand and again in 2021 and 2022.

  • ComplexCon has not shared specific attendance numbers recently. It had 30,000 attendees in 2016 and 60,000 in 2018, per Fast Company.
  • Tickets for a weekend pass cost about $700 for VIP and $210 for general admission. Individual day passes cost $145.
  • Revenue comes from ticket sales, brand sponsorships and merchandise sales. ComplexCon 2019 in Chicago generated $40 million in revenue, per The Wall Street Journal.

What to watch: Last year's ComplexCon featured Tasty, Complex's sister brand at BuzzFeed. This year, it's focused on Complex brands like First We Feast. BuzzFeed's senior vice president of experiential Matthew Senna says his team is planning future standalone events for other brands.

  • The company is considering editions of ComplexCon outside the U.S.
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