Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Coming to Life as Two-Day Festival in Nashville

First Major Consumer-Facing Event

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Sports Illustrated is promoting and building on this year's Swimsuit Issue with a two-day event in Nashville on Feb. 11 and 12 that will feature a concert by the band Kings of Leon. The effort, called the Swimville Fan Festival, is an attempt by Sports Illustrated to reach consumers directly in a new way and bring advertisers along for the ride.

Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. is a marketing partner for the event, which means it paid a sponsorship fee to Sports Illustrated, according to Brendan Ripp, the magazine's publisher. Other brands have also signed on, he said, declining to name them.

"It's so important as a brand and company to build new revenue streams," he said.

As print ad sales erode, magazines have looked to live events for additional revenue. A variety of titles have rolled out a cornucopia of live events in the last year, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Vanity Fair. Other titles -- such as Fortune, Wired, Bon Appetit and Men's Health -- bolstered their existing events business. Essence magazine has found success with an annual music festival in New Orleans. Newspapers like The New York Times and digital-only sites like Business Insider and Mashable are also hosting live events aimed at consumers.

The two-day Swimsuit Issue event will feature free concerts from emerging Nashville musicians and activities around the city's vaunted food scene. The year's Swimsuit Issue models will also be in attendance. Certain aspects of the festival -- such as the Kings of Leon concert -- will cost money to attend, according to Mr. Ripp.

"We want to be younger, we want to be broader, we want to be bigger," he said of Sports Illustrated, which is part of Time Inc. "Nashville is helping us check off all those boxes."

It's only the second time Sports Illustrated has hosted a public event around the swimsuit issue, now its 51st year. Last year, it hosted a small party for the public in Miami, which served as the inspiration for the Nashville festival. In prior years, festivities around the issue were private affairs.

"I saw the potential for something to be way bigger," said Mr. Ripp, who became publisher of Sports Illustrated last January. "The strategy was to build the most consumer-facing swimsuit franchise in brand history. Let's bring swimsuit to our fans and consumers."

Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue is one of the brand's biggest revenue drivers, both in print ad pages and newsstand sales. And revealing each year's cover model or models is a pop-culture event.

This year's swimsuit issue comes out Feb. 9 in print, digital and mobile. Mr. Ripp said he's still selling ads for the issue.

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