The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is one of the most anticipated magazines in the publishing year, but the Sports Illustrated Group, a subsidiary of Time Inc., was looking for more than just fleeting newsstand sales. So over the next few years, the magazine plans to turn the issue into a saleable asset. To that end, this week SI begins the second year of a launch strategy that positions the annual issue as a property that can be leveraged for its sponsors and partners, not just as a value-add for brand marketing, but as a catalyst farther down the purchase funnel, even for retail promotions. For example, SoBe, one of the magazine’s sponsor/partners this year, is running a “Zero Calories Zero Inhibitions” initiative for its SoBe Lifewater line. Actress Ashley Greene models a SoBe-branded body paint “skinsuit” in the issue and the brand is using the exposure to promote a coupon and sweepstakes program.
The launch program began Monday night with the cover reveal on “Late Night with David Letterman.” On Feb. 9, the festivities really got started at a red carpet event in one of New York City’s hottest new clubs, Provocateur. The magazine invited VIPs, media and, of course, the models to walk the red carpet and party it up while the magazine’s partners got a chance to cash in on the good vibes. At about 9 p.m., 135 of the most important VIPs and models hopped a ride to La Guardia Airport, where a custom-branded AirTran plane (one of several SI partners) waited to take them to Las Vegas, where the launch events continued.
The models made appearances at many of the city’s casinos, hotels and events as part of a multi-year agreement SI made with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Another of the activations brought the swimsuit issue’s photo shoot locations to life for guests by recreating them in the Mirage Resort and Casino’s nightclub, Jet. Each location featured in the issue, be it the Maldives, Whistler, British Columbia or the Mojave Desert, had a featured location in the club for guests to hang in and enjoy.
The week’s activities will culminate at a final VIP experience at “Club SI” on Feb. 11 at Vanity at the Hard Rock Café. Mark McGrath will host the party, and Maroon 5 will play a special set, all leading to the re-reveal of the cover model for the Las Vegas crowd. Finally, on Friday Airtran will bring the New Yorkers home again to recover. All in all, there were 10 different events over five days of activation.
“We’re building a meaningful asset for our clients to leverage for their business needs,” Andrew Judelson, cmo at the SI Group, told Buzz. “In this day and age, the place that budgets are not under so much of an attack is when you can illustrate that you’re touching a consumer on a one-to-one level, so that’s what we measure.” (Photo credit: Alvin Lee/Sports Illustrated.)