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SI’s swimsuit issue: new marketing tool

Ashley Milne-Tyte Feb 9, 2009

SI’s swimsuit issue: new marketing tool

Ashley Milne-Tyte Feb 9, 2009


KAI RYSSDAL: For those in the audience who are stuck in the depths of winter someplace, this evening’s David Letterman show might be of interest to you. Dave’s going to have the first peek at the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue tonight.

It probably goes without saying that it’s the magazine’s best-selling issue of the year. And before the economy started putting the magazine industry out of print, it got most of its money from ads. This year, those ads are down 30 percent. So S.I. is trying a different model.

Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: One swimsuit-issue model will have her image plastered across a Southwest Airlines jet. The plane will fly VIPs to Vegas this week to celebrate the issue. There, Nissan will sponsor stunt drivers racing cars bursting with more swimsuit models. No word on whether they’ll be wearing their costumes.

Samir Husni is a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. He says the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue used to be an event by itself.

SAMIR HUSNI: It used to generate a lot of publicity, generate a lot of sales. But we’ve witnessed such a tremendous change in terms of the magazine business, and everybody and their cousin now has a swimsuit issue.

He says with the magazine losing readers and ad revenue, it’s relying more on the Internet and special events to keep the brand alive.

David Parmet is a marketing consultant.

DAVID PARMET: They need to throw the long ball to keep their awareness out there. You know their traditional audience for the Sports Illustrated issue — OK, so it’s guys in their 20s and 30S — these guys, they could find stuff much more interesting online.

So he says the more buzz around the brand the better.

Porter Bibb of Media Tech Capital Partners says success is important for Sports Illustrated and its parent company.

PORTER BIBB: And there’s a great deal of doubt on Wall Street and actually inside Time Warner as to whether the company is going to keep their magazine publishing division.

He says if the brouhaha surrounding the big launch pays off, other magazines will move more toward event marketing — even if they can’t muster the glamour of the swimsuit issue.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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