An Introduction to Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated (SI) was the first ever sports magazine to cover current sports events. It premiered on August 16, 1954 and was the brain child of Henry Luce, the publisher of Time Magazine. At the time, sports journalism was thought of as frivolous and that there wouldn’t be a market for it. Luce’s contemporaries tried to dissuade him from starting the magazine and he persisted. Although the magazine was not profitable for its first 12 years, it is now a power house with over 3 million subscribers and 23 million weekly readers. It has spurred many ‘spin offs,’ including Sports Illustrated Kids, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (which has its own brand, television presence, calendars, etc.), Sports Illustrated Women, and editions in Canada and Australia.
The magazine also is known for many innovations including large, color photos that were linked to ‘up to the moment’ sports news, celebrity covers, awards, and Sportsperson of the Year. Sports Illustrated photographers were world class and pioneered exciting shots, such as behind the goalie and behind the basketball net.
Their website is multi-dimensional and very interactive. On it you can find team information, game scores, a fan site, articles, blog, college and pro information, video, ads and dozens of links to Fantasy Football, Podcasts, and schedules, standings and rankings of every sport. And of course, lots and lots of great color photos, that SI is famous for.
When thinking about their branding or messaging, I think it’s all about the excitement of being up-close with the game, the athlete and the sport. Their fantastic photos, in-depth analysis and interviews make you feel you are really at the center of sports. They make you feel like a part of the sports world – and you are – as a super fan.
Social Media Presence Summary
SI has a very dynamic Facebook page. The Cover Photo captures dozens of magazine covers. The site has 2,985,251 likes and 2,944,519 followers. The posts are varied and interesting. Again, great photos, getting you up close and personal with the sport, videos, dramatic news clips from recent sports games, some varied content (hockey training for 9 year-old kids in Russia), profiles (Muhammad Ali), trade gossip, college sports and just about everything you would want to know in the moment.
The About section is very brief: the date of founding, mission statement (to deliver premier journalism and give unparalleled perspective on the world of sports), and Company Overview (delivers more than 150 original stories to users each week). They post frequently. In the time it took to write this they posted four posts. The top viewed video at the top of the site is Donald Trump at the CFP Title game (3,400 likes and 1,600 comments). There are lots of comments and likes on each post, but SI does not seem to engage in the conversation.
I think SI has a great Facebook page and it is appropriate for the company’s branding. I think they do a good job of updating the site and keeping it fresh and relevant. I found it interesting and I think other sports fans will too.
The Tagline of the SI You Tube Page is “New Videos Every Day,” so I guess that says it! The top video of the page is an interview with Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s 10 minutes long and a very good and interesting video, with footage of him playing, cooking with his family, etc. The site has 135,060 subscribers, and the menu shows video, playlists, community, channels, and About. There are a number of other channels suggested (SI Swimsuit Channel, Sport Illustrated Kids, Time, Golf.com, Entertainment Weekly and even This Old House). Most posts have between 300-400 views but there are some videos that have as many as 15,000 views: 24 Hours with Sports Power Couple: Eagles’ Azch Ertz and USWNT’s Julie Ertz.
The SI You Tube presence is pretty robust. To post a new video every day means they have a pretty large production team who are on the lookout for good and interesting content. I like that they mix it up with videos of college sports, children’s sports, and a more personal view of athletes. Again, they are keeping you up close and personal with the world of sports.
The Twitter header looks just like the Cover Photo of the Facebook page (the magazine covers) and the logo also appears. SI has 1.74 million followers and it is following 1,752. Their Twitter handle is @SInow. There are 247,000 tweets and 2,493 likes. They send a tweet every 3-4 minutes. Posts vary and include video, photographs, new clips and information from other sites (for example, they are showcasing the applications for the New York City Marathon). The commentary from SI is pretty personal and contains humor. A funny post caption was: Great toss+no broken TV = (symbol for like), featuring a funny video of a small boy throwing a ball through a hoop poised right in front of a flat screen TV held by his Dad. This was a retweet of a fan no doubt.
I liked that the Twitter page was a bit more jokey and fun than the other social media platforms. I think the shorter format of Twitter allows them to take more risks. I do like that they have links from fans’ sites.
Pinterest and Tumblr
On Pinterest and Tumblr, SI can really come into its own and show the great photography they are famous for. Particularly on the Tumblr site which has great color photo reproduction. Every month they post a dozen or so of their top photographs with hashtags. Here’s a great one of Venus and Serena Williams:
Photo by Bob Martin
I was surprised to see a Pinterest page but it shows how big their media staff is. The page has 31,880 Followers and they are following 108. There are many different categories of pins: On the Cover, College Football, News and Updates, The Thrill of Victory, Sports Pets, Vintage Sports and, of course, SI Swimsuit.
It was hard to find an actual blog on sportsillustrated.com as there is so much news content. But there is a blog attached called Extra Mustard, News of the Day. The tagline of this blog is “Where Culture Meets Sports.”
This is a collection of news stories and opinion pieces by Sports Illustrated journalists. They are off beat and not focused on the game, statistics, etc. They seem to be highlighting items of special interest off the beaten path. For example, one headline is, “Eagles Fan Ejected from Game, Arrested for Punching Police Officer and His Horse.” This is the kind of article you would not expect to see on their main website, or on any of their social media sites. There are a number of tags at the end of the article, but nowhere to comment. This surprised me. In fact, I looked around the website in depth and couldn’t find a place where there was a real dialogue with fans.
SI has 1 million followers on Instagram, 8,676 posts and is following 589. Again, they have great images and they each get thousands of likes. They post videos too, but they have a very limited use of hashtags. There is nothing particularly distinct about their Instagram feed and it looks like they don’t put a lot of effort into it.
Analysis of SI’s Overall Social Media Presence
Sports Illustrated must have a huge staff invested in social media. They have multiple platforms and are posting regularly on all of them. Each is branded with their signature photos and up to the minute sports coverage. They employ dozens, if not hundreds of journalists, who are great writers and editors. The quality of their coverage is excellent. They must have an army of photographers – that’s got to be a great job. I especially enjoyed their Tumblr page as I love good photography and I think this format really suits what they are best at. I think their social media does a great job of keeping followers informed and talking about the latest sports news.
On Google, there are 24,400,000 results for Sports Illustrated. Of course, the first listing is for subscriptions, then it’s the SI website, then Twitter, You Tube and Facebook. That is followed by a Wikipedia page, Sports Illustrated Kids site, and the SI Swimsuit calendar available on Amazon. At about page 3 of Google, there begins to be articles about Sports Illustrated from other journals, such as the magazine going bi-weekly, who is on the cover, etc. Lucky for SI – there are no scandals at the moment. There is nothing unexpected on Google, at least for the first dozen pages. Their digital footprint is completely aligned to their brand.
Overall, SI does a very good job of promoting their brand and satisfying their fans. They have a consistent presence over all of the social media platforms. Their photos are terrific and their journalism is first rate. I would, however, like to see more interaction with fans and more places where there could be dialogue. It would also be fun for them to have more imaginative links to some of the great blogs being done by fans. They could be more creative in their posting of interesting news items about fitness, etc. Overall, I was glad to see minimal advertising and promotion. That is a real credit to their desire to be a reputable journal.