Plenty of people checked out Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen on the cover of last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Now, Time Inc. is giving readers a chance to see the models in person as part of the first Swimsuit Issue Festival in Nashville, Tenn.
The iconic piece of clickbait is coming to life as a two-day festival next month, part of Sports Illustrated owner Time Inc.'s broader strategy to build out an events business for each of its brands to augment subscription and advertising revenue. The festival, which will include musical performances by Kings of Leon and Mikky Ekko, as well as a separate event showcasing Nashville restaurants, is being sponsored by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. Additional sponsors have not yet been named.
For the past several months, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp has been saying his company will ramp up its events and experiences operations in 2015 and beyond. The company will build a team to oversee events and experiences operations across Time Inc.’s entire portfolio of magazine brands, though company spokeswoman Teri Everett said the company has nothing specific to report at this time.
Time Inc.’s interest in expanding that side of its business is understandable. Print advertising revenues, long the cornerstone of the company’s profits, have been mired in an industrywide decline for years. Revenues at Time Inc. have declined in 25 of the past 27 quarters, despite steadily growing digital ad revenue. Time Inc.’s digital ad revenues are not expected to pass its print revenues until late 2016.
Conferences and events already make up a healthy portion of Time Inc.'s revenues, thanks to a number of standout events that include the Fortune Global Forum, the Essence Fest and the Food & Wine Classic. But the company wants to go bigger. "We see this as a big growth area," Ripp told analysts last year.
Ripp's competitors evidently do too. Many magazine publishers have been busy expanding into event programming. Atlantic Media, for example, the home of the Atlantic as well as the business website Quartz, has tripled the staff at its young events arm, Atlantic Live Media, which now puts on more than 120 events a year.
At the moment, the market for magazine-branded events is mostly “business-oriented,” according to Shearon, with the number of consumer-facing events still relatively small.
“We’re at a point where somebody needs to create this market,” Shearon said.
Creating markets for these events will happen on a case-by-case basis. Time Inc. has managed to expand its Essence Fest, a yearly music, food and lifestyle event that plays out over a weekend in New Orleans, into a year-round brand that drew more than 500,000 attendees last year. "They have some best practices to draw on from there," Shearon said.
According to Time Inc., Sports Illustrated magazine reaches more than 19 million readers every week. The Swimsuit Issue, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, sold more than 785,000 print copies and reached more than 70 million people online in 2014.