Sports Illustrated took the stage more than ten decades ago and had ever since achieved the unthinkable. This is the magazine that has transformed the sports industry by popularizing all types of games. The magazine gives each sport equal opportunity in its reporting and offers comprehensive coverage and detailed statistics for each. Inc.’s publisher, Henry Luce is the driving force for this magazine and but the most fantastic thing is that he was not a sports fan. His primary concern that made him take an interest in sports was that he felt that media did not give the American love for sports as much concentration as it deserved.
The Magazine’s Start-up Challenges
Henry R. Luce (1898-1967), the editor and publisher of Time, Fortune and Life, 1937. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sports Illustrated did not face the obvious challenge like competition which is many magazines face as they establish. The magazine was venturing in a new business that other magazines did not have any interest in. Henry Luce’s first challenge was to get a serious team that was willing to be committed to run the magazine weekly. There was a notion in the public that sport did not deserve serious journalism. This was a big issue since the magazine was new to the market and it has to show its commitment to its quest to popularize sports. The second challenge was that the staff was unsupportive and hated the idea of specializing in games. His sport nicknamed the magazine Jockstrap or Sweat socks.
Sports Illustrated Redesigned in 1960
People look through the premiere issue of Sports Illustrated magazine on a Manhattan sidewalk, New York, New York, August 16, 1954. (Photo by Susan Wood/Getty Images)
Henry realized that the magazine was being poorly managed by his staff which had a negative attitude towards the idea. His original plan was to cover sports widely the lazy team back then only focused on yachting and polo which they referred to as the elitist sport. The redesigning started with the hiring of Andre Laguerre who was a very experienced editor in 1960. The magazine started giving much emphasis on using full-color photographs of every sport that the magazine covered. The editor also decided to focus on all games and gave more attention to everyday sports like football and baseball. The magazine also hired committed and talented writers like Dan Jenkins and Frank Deform, this was the beginning of the famous Sports Illustrated which we know today.
Sports Illustrated was the Bible of Sports
A woman looks through the premiere issue of Sports Illustrated magazine on a Manhattan sidewalk, New York, New York, August 16, 1954. (Photo by Susan Wood/Getty Images)
Being a lone ranger in the sporting world, Sports Illustrated took advantage of the situation and established an empire that came to be admired by many. The magazine was the first in history to understand how potential the football sport was. The magazine gave attention to all sports, and within ten years after its redesigning, it was loved by almost all the American and its distribution had tremendously increased. Back then every news agency and leading media houses were referring to it for sports news with sports lovers referring to it as the bible of sports. The magazine started focusing on talents and awarding players who increased its popularity.
Sports Illustration Hits the Headlines
Detroit Pistons’ coach Chuck Daly is holding a copy of Sports Illustrated with a projected team which includes; Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Karl Malone This will be the first Olympic that NBA players will be eligible. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
One of the most famous headlines run by the magazine was the issue of swimsuit back in 1964. There was n much attention given to the swimsuit immediately after it was published but the problem was revisited when Henry publicly talked about effective male leadership. This topic ignited many controversies, and many people felt that the magazine exploited women. Feminist used the swimsuit headline to criticize the magazine and launched a massive campaign to reject it. Eventually, many people joined them, and up to 65% of subscriptions were canceled. Later they allowed subscribers to skip the swimsuit edition; today this is one of the most popular issues for the magazine.
Sports Illustrated Subscribers did More than Just Reading the Magazine
Rebecca Romijn, Caprice Bourret, Heidi Klum, Eva Herzigova, Louise Forsling, Chandra North, Irina Pantaeva and Beri Smither (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
What many people do not know about this magazine is that its subscriber’s loyalty enabled it to survive for long in the market. They did more than just reading the magazine, they absorbed it and gave it much attention that helped it market itself. It is unbelievable that many subscribers just wanted to be associated with the magazines but did not pay much attention to its contents. Investing in the magazine through subscription is what kept it in the market for so long.
Top Bountdowns by Sports Illustration
Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum (L) and 2012 Sportsman of the Year LeBron James speak onstage at the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award presentation at Espace on December 5, 2012, in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
By 1980, the magazine was doing more than just reporting sports. There was more for its subscribers to have a glance of than just reading real sports news. On several occasions, the magazine published outstanding countdowns that increased its popularity. It’s famous and most recent countdown involved “the 50 most powerful people in sports” which recognized David Bergman and Andrew D. Bernstein as the most powerful back then. The magazine also gave players countdown based on performance and earnings in different sports. These were among the famous headlines in Sports Illustration.
The Great Ole Miss Cover by Sports Illustrated
(L-R) Sports Illustrated swimsuit models Dominique Piek, Esti Ginzburg and Zoe Duchesne posse before signing Sports Illustrated magazines for fans at the Paris Las Vegas on February 11, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steven Lawton/FilmMagic)
This magazine cover was the turning point for Sports Illustration and probably the most significant indication of the influence the magazine had. The magazine set a standard for sports lovers that it would be covering movers and shakers only. The magazine’s cover is what many considered to be the finest and it attracted very much attention from all media houses. Among many other magazine covers for Sports Illustration, Dominica Patrick and the famous best three are among the most popular magazine covers of all time. The culture for magazine cover still rocks for every other magazine in the market following the introduction by Sports Illustration.
The Current State of Sports Illustrated
The Sports Illustrated 2016 swimsuit issue of the magazine is seen with other tabloid magazines displayed in a newsstand in New York on Wednesday, February 16, 2016. (Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)
The once cultural touchstone and a publication that for years defined the world of sports seems to be dying. It is not possible to explain to the young generation how much this magazine meant o the world but its influence is no longer an issue. People do not know it now as they used to and very few bothers to subscribe. Currently, the magazine seems to have been caught by the web of brutal economic environment that is killing almost every other magazine. The company is now suffering major Cutbacks with the latest being the laying off of more than 300employees in what the magazine referred to as cost-structure reengineering.
What Does the Future Hold for Sports Illustrated?
Kate Bock, Kate Upton, Christie Brinkley and Hailey Clauson attend the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Casting Call at PARAISO during Miami Swim Week at The W Hotel South Beach on July 14, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
Last year the entire company was put under new management after it was sold to Fusty Midwestern Publisher. The fact that the company decided to be placed under new management means that business was not as usual. Currently, there is no much to report on magazines about sports, and the market seems to pose many challenges for sports magazines. It may sound obvious to say it, but the truth is that social media and the ever-advancing technology is and will continue to be a threat to business. The magazine’s new owner deals with weddings, best homes and gardens, and kitchens. The fact that its new owner does not much experience in sports would only mean that the future is not so bright for Sports Illustrated. The bitter truth remains soon, or later the magazine may ultimately be out of the market.