The aroma of sweet milk tea enveloped me as I entered the bustling boba shop, filled with socializing fans and busy vendors. An ordinary boba shop by day has been transformed into a homage for two members of the South Korean pop group, BTS, with photos stuck onto the walls and life-size cutouts for pictures. Their biggest hits filled the room, and the positive energy permeating from the room was contagious, since all of us were here with the same purpose: our love for BTS.
From December 7th to the 8th, BOBA WITH LUV, run by Twitter fan @eccentaecity, hosted a two-day cupsleeve event for the birthdays of members Kim Taehyung and Kim Seokjin (or Tae and Jin, respectfully). Cupsleeve events are fan-run projects held at cafes to celebrate an idol’s birthday, anniversary, or achievement. These events are a great way to collect merchandise, socialize with other fans, and celebrate the idol.
On a whim, my friend and I decided to stop by Heeretea near Cal State Fullerton, curious to see how the day would unfold. It was my first cupsleeve event, and although I had seen advertisements for similar events before, I never got up and went. In line, we received a purple heart with a number and were free to wander off until they called our range of numbers on the official Twitter account, similar to Yelp reservations at restaurants. After exploring the rest of downtown Fullerton, our number was finally called, and my friend and I came back to the boba shop to see exactly what it had to offer.
I found the themed drinks amusing, with creative puns and inside jokes such as “Singulari-TEA” and “World Handsome.” After purchasing our drinks, we received our goodie bags filled with cute photocards and stickers of Tae and Jin. The merchandise sold at the event was high quality, compared to other non-official products, and the vendors were kind and energetic, always ready to express their undying love for the group. I was impressed by the entrepreneurship involved in independently creating merchandise, with many vendors displaying business cards and social media platforms next to their products.
Throughout the event, I met other BTS fans, known as ARMY, within a wide range of ages, from fourteen to forty, but the gap hardly felt influential in my conversations with them as we discussed our top tracks. Fans came from every direction, such as a group of loyal fans I met who attend Cal State University, San Bernardino. Sparking a conversation with anyone was simple, since we immediately connect over the same passion. I felt close to fans so fast, I considered inviting them to my wedding! Well, my wedding to Kim Seokjin, of course.
Events such as cupsleeve projects demonstrate the great potential that comes from collaborations between fanbases and businesses. The line for the event stretched way out the door (I was number 323!) and each customer has to purchase a drink for the goodie bag. Not to mention, independent vendors, selling everything from pins to scarves, also participate in the event. Cupsleeve events demonstrate a positive, symbiotic relationship for both fanbases and businesses, offering a safe place to meet other fans and generating massive sales.
Cupsleeve events are an amazing feat, exemplifying the potential of a fanbase to create successful and far-reaching opportunities for fans to connect in real life. Although BTS fans have been perceived negatively due to extreme fans and hostility towards other groups, this project and so many others demonstrate how the most hardworking and dedicated fans can make it right and produce amazing and quality events.
Once, at a fanclub event, Tae told fans “I purple you.” He explained that purple is the last color of the rainbow, meaning that his love for ARMY will last a long time. With the successful cupsleeve event bringing loyal fans from every corner of Southern California together to celebrate Tae and Jin’s birthdays, fans have truly shown that they purple BTS back.