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Volume 21 No. 1
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SI adding features, pages to 50th Swimsuit

The golden anniversary of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition is fueling a 12 percent jump in revenue for the magazine’s iconic franchise, extending a recent wave of growth.

Specific financial figures were not disclosed, but this year marks the fifth consecutive year of growth in Swimsuit revenue, and revenue from the franchise has grown 45 percent over the past three years. SI sold 112 ad pages for the 2014 Swimsuit edition, up by 10 from a year ago and its largest total since 2007. In this year’s edition are 15 custom advertisers, several of which use past or present Swimsuit models. Key marketing partners this year include Target, Lexus, Finish Line, Crown Royal and Captain Morgan.

A new, Instagram-inspired website devoted to SI’s Swimsuit will make its debut Tuesday.
“Both consumers and advertisers love anniversaries, and you look at what Swim has accomplished across all platforms, it’s been incredible,” said SI Publisher Brendan Ripp. Ripp, a former sales and marketing executive at Fortune magazine and a Time Inc. veteran, started in the SI post last month. “We think the response to seeing the models both past and present this year for the 50th will be huge.”

In addition to the current crop of models, the anniversary edition will feature an extensive retrospective tribute featuring former Swimsuit stars such as Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland and Heidi Klum.

Another high-profile partner for Swimsuit this year is toymaker Mattel, which will feature the Barbie doll in the magazine and produce a limited-edition 2014 Swimsuit Barbie to be sold exclusively at Mattel’s execution for Barbie around Swimsuit carries the tagline of “#unapologetic,” acknowledging the doll’s much-debated status as a role model for young girls.

Ripp, who had a big hand in Fortune’s conference business, is also pushing to make Swimsuit into more of an experiential event. After several years of conducting Swimsuit launch parties in Las Vegas, SI this year will instead travel to Miami for several days of promotional events. Part of the planned execution is a tie-in with the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and a volleyball tournament involving models and chefs in Miami Beach’s Lummas Park that will be open to the public. SI previously made all its Swimsuit launch events invitation-only.

The 2014 Swimsuit edition, set to hit newsstands Tuesday, will contain 252 pages, up 28 from a year ago, and the largest overall Swimsuit issue since the 25th anniversary in 1989. Models Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Tiegen are on this year’s cover, and popular model Kate Upton is featured in a flipcover format that devotes the back cover to editorial instead of advertising. Upton was on the front of the last two Swimsuit issues, with last year’s edition posting the best newsstand sales of any single American magazine in 2013.

SI also altered the cover reveal process itself for Swimsuit this year, eschewing CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman” after many years and instead doing its traditional pageant-style reveal with models present on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” SI wanted to reduce the time between the final cover design and its public unveiling, thus reducing the chances for an unauthorized leak. SI was to unveil the cover on the show last Thursday, and the “Late Show” was dark last week.

As has been the case for several years, SI also is devoting significant resources to its digital deployment of Swimsuit. A new, Instagram-inspired website will debut Tuesday, and will again feature a return of the popular 360-degree view feature in which scrolling over the photos will create the appearance of spinning around. An updated mobile application features content from the last three Swimsuit editions and includes an altered back-end architecture to allow for quicker loading of photos.