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Rewind: Young John Slattery Can't Believe His Luck in This 1980s Sports Illustrated Commercial

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There was a time in the '80s when men rushed into video stores searching for VHS (or Betamax) tapes of sports bloopers. And those men looked a lot like Roger Sterling.

At least that's what a Sports Illustrated TV spot would you have believe.

The tape John Slattery so desperately wants to find
The tape John Slattery so desperately wants to find

With Sports Illustrated publisher Time Inc. preparing to be jettisoned from parent Time Warner, this edition of Rewind looks at a commercial from the headier days of Time Inc. The two-minute commercial stars John Slattery, Mad Men's Roger Sterling, as a man on a mission to find a tape of sports bloopers. The video store clerk -- remember those? -- tells the frazzled Mr. Slattery that he can get the tape for free with a one-year subscription to Sports Illustrated.

It was a simpler time for the media business, when blooper reels could move magazine subscriptions. It was also long enough ago that a spokesman for Sports Illustrated said Time Inc. now has no recollection of the ad, who made it or the strategy behind the spot.

But in the late '80s, when the spot was filmed, magazines' newsstand business was far more robust than it is today, and Sports Illustrated was selling more than twice as many newsstand copies as it does now. Its issues averaged single-copy sales of 145,000 in the first half of 1988, compared to 68,000 in the first half of this year, according to the Alliance for Audited Media (known in the 80's as the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

Subscriptions have held up far better. Sports Illustrated's total paid and verified circulation averaged about 3.2 million in 1988; today it's still about 3 million. Maybe those TV spots with Roger Sterling did the trick.

Bonus: Watch these vintage ads for People, Time and then-new Entertainment Weekly.

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