Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition, which arguably has been one of the most blatant forms of media objectifying women’s bodies, is shifting to a new “pay-with-change” advertising model that will require sponsors to be certified as promoting gender equality, and will only carry ads that do the same.
The model, which was developed with independent marketing communications agency Edelman, is part of a longer-term effort to repositioning the SI franchise from exploiting women’s physical attributes to being an agent of change for gender equality.
The swimsuit edition franchise is among the magazine’s most circulated -- in both print and digital, as well as heavy social amplification -- and often features tie-ins related to the explicit swimsuit themes and supermodels wearing them, or almost wearing them.
This is normally a coveted premium buy for many advertisers, but the magazine says the pay-with-change model is a new cost-of-entry for any brand that wants to be associated with it.
"Our goal: change the cost of doing business from a dollar amount to the currency of doing good," the magazine says in a video explaining the new model (below).
“Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has been leading the charge in creating change in women’s lives for years, despite what some critics and naysayers would like you to believe,” MJ Day, editor in chief of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit states, adding: “However, in a world where women’s bodies are under attack and their value continuously underestimated, we knew we needed to act in a bold, more responsible way. Pay with Change is not just a platform to us, it is our commitment to creating greater progress for women.”
The swimsuit edition, which has already has made strides in both its editorial and business approach in recent years, said it will also invest “a percentage of every ad dollar” generated by the annual issue to create a “Sports Illustrated Gender Equity Fund” supporting a nonprofit organization working on an “equitable future for all women.”
The magazine said “additional opportunities” to participate in the franchise will be available to advertisers based on “investment dollars.”
To become certified as one of the magazine’s “changemakers,” brands need to demonstrate that they have made or are making progress for women by May 2022 when the annual edition hits newsstands and online.