Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why the SI Swimsuit Issue Doesn't Care if Anyone Goes to its Music Festival [Update]

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Kate Upton's stimulus package. - WALTER IOOSS JR. / SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
  • Walter Iooss Jr. / Sports Illustrated
  • Kate Upton's stimulus package.

There is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Music Festival, sponsored by Lexus, where blog-approved bands like White Denim and the Black Lips will play at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Wait, what?

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Beauties & Beats Music Fest (didn't spend much time on that name, did they?) will be held today and tomorrow at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. The ten bands scheduled to perform are Delta Spirit, Elan Atias & White Elephant, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, Little Hurricane, Maluca, Nick Waterhouse, Vonnegutt, Selebrities, White Denim and the Black Lips as headliner. This coincides with a series of videos on the SI Swimsuit web site soundtracked by the same bands (plus a few more). How a sports magazine came to host a music festival via its annual bikini diversion says a lot about new media strategy and how its marketing departments have become unlikely (and essential) patrons of up-and-coming musicians.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, which hit billboards, Late Night and (oh yeah) newsstands earlier this week, continues to expand beyond the glossy confines of its cleavage-adorned pages. It resembles most media in 2012 in that there are apps, online video, social media tie-ins, a Google Chrome plug-in and real-life events and parties. Except the money is much bigger and the cross-platform promotion is compounded many times over. How relevant any of it is to the magazine under whose title this whole thing ostensibly flys isn't much of a concern, which is how stuff like this happens.

The Swimsuit Issue is enormous business. In a world where most magazines (including the sports-related issues of Sports Illustrated) are struggling to keep afloat, the Swimsuit Issue continues to grow -- ad revenue was up 8% this year. That puts the total somewhere north of $50 million. Ten percent of the haul made by Time Warner (which owns Turner Broadcasting System, which owns SI) comes from "experiential and event marketing," including the music fest. So that's some part of a $5 million piece of a very big pie.

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