Two weeks later, another popular promotional piece has hit newsstands: Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. As it does each February, the curator of all-things-athletic has taken leave of sports in order to feature women in bikinis, on beaches.
So, why doesn’t SI have a similar bathing suit issue featuring men? Maybe males are less skilled at modeling, i.e., they model “like a boy”?
Of course, the reason is that the magazine’s readership is about 77% male and many of those men aren’t interested in bathing suits for themselves; rather they like to leer at women wearing bathing suits, especially women in very small suits and in very suggestive poses. SI is simply meeting its target market’s wants and needs.
Unfortunately this need satisfaction flies in the face of everything Always is trying to accomplish with its “Like a Girl” ad. How much impact can the message that “women are athletically adept” have when one of the loudest voices in sports sends a strong countervailing message—that women are just a collection of provocative body parts whose purpose is others’ sensual satisfaction?
One can’t help but think of the young women in the Always ad and wonder how their lives and those of all women might be different without the hypersexualization promoted in much of our media.
The fact that SI continues to publish its annual swimsuit issue means that the publication attracts advertisers and sells magazines, i.e., it’s effective marketing that creates stakeholder value. The societal impact of this product choice, however, is likely harmful, which makes SI’s bikinis on beaches a case of “Single-Minded Marketing.”