David Morris: Automakers are "reasonable partners" with Sports Illustrated.
You led the magazine industry in automotive pages last year. What is the key to your success?
The auto category loves magazines. SI provides the greatest media value. Our median (reader) age is 38. Our readership is 80 percent male and 20 percent female. We have 20 million readers on a weekly basis. Our average household income is $75,325.
For SI.com, we have 7 million unique users on a monthly basis. The online (audience) is a year younger, but the income and percentage of managerial/professional (occupations of readers) is the same.
Is it too much of a generalization to say your success is based on the fact that you're a guy magazine and guys love cars and sports?
You've got to be an appropriate magazine for the demographic audience that the automotive marketer is seeking. You've also got to resonate with dealers.
When the automotive advertiser is talking to dealers about where they are going to launch their vehicle, if they hear that Sports Illustrated is in the schedule, they know the automaker is very serious about the launch of that brand and the advertising of that brand.
We work with our automotive partners on programs and packages. We sit down with them and our marketing people.
We find out what their goals are, and work on how we can set them apart and break through the clutter in the pages of our magazine, online and in the marketplace.
You're not the No. 1 magazine just because you reach a lot of men who buy cars or trucks. That puts you in the game. But once you're there, you have to deliver.
What marketing programs have you put together for automotive advertisers?
After each major sports season ends, Sports Illustrated selects the Player of the Year in that category. We run an editorial page about the Player of the Year and Ford runs an ad adjacent to that platform. The platform is also online, where we ask people to vote on who should be the player of the year. Ford sponsors that page (on SI.com). The reader poll has no bearing on who is picked. Ford partners with us on our Sportsman of the Year event in December of each year. We have a television show on Fox. Ford goes with us all along the way.
A Ford Mustang convertible "tanning guide" ad tied into this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Pontiac is a partner with us on our swimsuit issue. This year they launched the Pontiac Solstice. The Solstice was on our page-one gatefold. They hosted a swimsuit party in New York. We had consumers, dealers and swimsuit models. We had a Webcast of the event where the models were interviewed. Dealers were there, and people from GM. We had the Solstice at the party, and it was featured in the Webcast. If you went to our swimsuit content online, Pontiac had advertising there as well.
Do you work with automakers on developing unique advertising for the swimsuit issue?
We don't work with them, but we'll certainly review creative as it comes in. When they are playing off the swimsuit issue, which many of them do each year, we want to make sure that it's done appropriately and that readers are not confused on what is editorial and what is advertising. But it's done in a fun nature. We like to say that the swimsuit issue is the Super Bowl of print and a way to break creative.
How much do you charge for a page of national advertising?
The regular rate for a four-color ad is $243,000. The same page in the swimsuit issue is $285,750.
Are automakers tough customers in terms of busting your rate card?
They are big advertisers, but we have longtime, long-term relationships with them. They have a lot of leverage, for sure. But they are very reasonable partners in what they ask. They realize that there is value in magazines and there are costs that go up in magazines. They are our biggest advertiser and therefore they should have efficiency.
Who are your top advertisers?
General Motors ($41.1 million in 2004) is the No. 1 advertiser overall, Ford ($29 million) is No. 2, Toyota ($24 million) is No. 3, and DaimlerChrysler ($23.2 million) is No. 4.
We did $163 million in automotive business in 2004. That's up 15 percent from 2003. That represents 8 percent of the automotive marketplace for all magazine advertising.
Have automakers asked you to include pictures of their vehicles in your editorial pages?
Advertisers are looking for as much integration as possible. Some magazines will and can do that, because their editorial platform allows them to do that. But with a sports magazine there are fewer opportunities to integrate vehicles into that naturally.
I don't think the automotive advertisers are asking us to do something unnatural. The advertiser doesn't want to be a part of something that's forced.
You are changing the name of your organization from Sports Illustrated to SI. How is that going to affect how you market the magazine and your SI.com Web site?
Everyone in the industry calls Sports Illustrated "SI." We're looking to interact with consumers at every age level, with every medium that we can.
The past generation will look at Sports Illustrated as a great sports magazine, which it is today and will continue to be tomorrow.
The next generation of media buyers and marketers, including automotive marketers, will look at SI as a multimedia sports brand. We want people to interact with SI throughout the day, throughout the week and throughout the month.
Are you going to change the way you market the different parts of SI to automotive companies and advertising agencies?
No. It will continue just as we've done it. We have a dot-com salesperson and a print salesperson sit down together, talking to an automotive advertiser about what we can do in the magazine and online to make a bigger impact in multimedia. That's the goal.