SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Olympics

SI signs on as media partner of Team USA

Sports Illustrated will return to the Olympic sponsorship fold for the first time since 2004.

The Time Inc. company signed a one-year agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to become an official media partner of Team USA.

Under terms of the agreement, Sports Illustrated will become a preferred advertising outlet for USOC sponsors, offering official partners a chance to advertise alongside Olympic coverage in the magazine and its tablet offering in the ramp-up to the London Games. In exchange for making Sports Illustrated an official partner, the USOC will receive advertising in the magazine to promote Team USA in the countdown to the Olympics.

“Sports Illustrated is a great brand that appeals to a huge segment of America interested in Olympic sports,” said USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird. “This is a real opportunity for us to expand what we’re telling consumers about our athletes and our marketing initiatives.”

The deal differs considerably from Sports Illustrated’s previous business relationships with Olympic organizations.

Sports Illustrated was an early supporter of the International Olympic Committee’s The Olympic Partner program, signing on in 1989, but it ended that relationship in 2005.

Tim Angelillo, Sports Illustrated’s executive director of property sales and strategic marketing, said that the company wanted to take on an official role again in part because it plans to devote more resources and send more writers, reporters, editors and photographers to cover the London Games than it did for the Beijing Olympics.

The deal also gives Sports Illustrated a chance to tap into the USOC’s roster of 30 sponsors for advertising support.

“Given our support and coverage of the Olympic Games going back to 1960, the official media partnership is something we sought,” Angelillo said.

Sports Illustrated has hosted parties at every Olympic Games since the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Tickets to the parties were some of the most sought-after during the Olympics, but Sports Illustrated scaled back its hospitality in recent years. The magazine partnered with Budweiser to throw a party during the Vancouver Games in 2010.

The deal with the USOC would allow Sports Illustrated to throw parties as an official Team USA partner for the first time in years, and that’s something the magazine is exploring, Angelillo said.
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