Sports Illustrated Sale to Authentic Brands Proves Content is Still King

Published on June 12, 2019

At the end of May, Sports Illustrated sold to Authentic Brands for a whopping $110 million.

The sale doesn’t come as a big surprise and is another example of the continued importance of content. The Meredith Corporation has steadily sold off various titles that don’t fit with its other publications since acquiring Time, Inc. Most noteworthy, Meredith will continue to publish Sport Illustrated’s print magazine and manage its website for at least the next two years.

What’s in it for Authentic Brands? Profit from licensing deals that will use the Sports Illustrated name on everything from CPG to sports-gambling services.

This transaction is indicative of a new trend emerging in an increasingly-digital consumer landscape. Both brands and publishers alike are struggling to survive in this new, digital-first world. For brands, more needs to be done for ads to be effective as advertising prices continue to increase. For publishers, it’s become hard to make money with ad sales given competition with more popular advertising platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Today, brands need to be more than their product in order to be successful. Conversely, publishers need to be more than their ad space to survive. For both, the focus needs to be on how to continue growing awareness and establishing deeper connections with consumers. One of the best ways to accomplish this is for brands to optimize their content marketing strategies and act like (or acquire) publishers.

Brands as publishers

Content increases conversions and lifetime customer value. It sources organic traffic and helps evangelize a brand or product’s purpose. It can be repurposed to use on social, in videos, through images and more. When done correctly, content is incredibly engaging and helps curate a community around a brand. This is all incredibly important in today’s saturated retail market.

Content helps a brand create a sense of identity. In today’s consumer landscape, if a brand doesn’t have this, “it simply won’t survive.

What Authentic Brands has done with buying Sports Illustrated is one way to elevate a brand or product into a publishing powerhouse. It now has the ability to advertise any of its brands in Sports Illustrated for little-to-no cost. They can also leverage the Sports Illustrated name to bring in additional profit. Taking over a well-known publisher is a great way to take a brand to the next level. But it’s not the only path to take.

Content is king

Not everybody has $110 million laying around. Luckily, purchasing an iconic title isn’t the only way for brands to transition into publishing and content. FabFitFun has done a great job of realizing the symbiotic relationship between content and product. The result? A “whole matrix of content, products and influencers pieces for customers to consume.” Goop is a similar example. What started as a weekly newsletter has evolved into an incredibly successful eCommerce company that is so much more than just the content it produces or the products it sells.

Proof in the Pudding

Content helps drive interest. It’s no secret that content is an increasingly important aspect of every successful brand’s marketing strategy. Content drives interest and attracts consumers. It clearly works, as brands are either acquiring existing publishers, as case with Authentic Brands and Sports Illustrated, or putting a heightened focus on content marketing.

Brands and publishers alike need to adapt their business models and revenue streams in order to stay relevant these days. Authentic Brands formed a strategic partnership in order to scale its digital media business. Companies like FabFitFun and Goop expanded their brands into eCommerce powerhouses, going beyond just the curated articles they produced when first founded.

Companies are creating entire ecosystems with their brands. This is the future of retail. Competition is higher than ever, so any brand that wants long-term success would be wise to take note.

CEO & Founder Erik Huberman is a member of Grit Daily's Leadership Network. He launched Hawke Media in 2014, which is now valued at over $150 million. As a serial entrepreneur and marketing expert, Erik has been recognized by his industry peers through honors and awards including, Forbes Magazine’s 30Under30, CSQ’s 40Under40, and Inc. Magazine’s Top 25 Marketing Influencers.

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