Sports Illustrated brand

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

3 June 2019

The Sports Illustrated brand, and only the brand, sells

I guess we now know exactly what at least one brand is worth. In real dollars. The Sports Illustrated brand sold for $110 million last week, in a truly bizarre but fascinating deal.

Consider this. Meredith, which bought Sports Illustrated’s owner (Time Inc.) for $2.8 billion last year, sold only SI’s intellectual property. That is, the Sports Illustrated brand. Not the magazine.

Authentic Brands Group purchases only the use of the brand name for other venues. For example, it plans on using the SI name for medical clinics and sports-skills training classes along with gambling venues. Meredith continues to run the magazine itself.

Sports Illustrated brandThis is akin to selling the use of your personal name. But, you know, you keep your body.

Now, Authentic Brands is buying more than just the Sports Illustrated brand. It’s also buying the rights to the publication’s vast photo library and other intellectual properties.

Why sell only the Sports Illustrated brand?

A few questions. Why would Meredith do this, especially agreeing to pay Authentic Brands a licensing fee to use the name for SI’s magazine and website?

“Then there’s the question of how powerful the Sports Illustrated brand really is. It was once among the most powerful brands in all publishing.”

That is, if Authentic Brands has uses for the brand name, why doesn’t Meredith just keep it and do the same thing? On the other hand, why not just sell it all – magazine and website included – to Authentic Brands?

It’s a question of core competency. Authentic Brands also owns the brands of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, which it turns into property to license or use at live events and on merchandise. The company is what its name says it is. A company owning brands, and only brands.

Meredith, meanwhile, is a media conglomerate. It owns magazines, TV and radio stations. It wouldn’t know how to leverage the power of its brands for other uses.

Then there’s the question of how powerful the Sports Illustrated brand really is. It was once among the most powerful brands in all publishing. I was a subscriber for nearly 40 years until I let it lapse last year, choosing to only read its online content. In an era in which ESPN, The Athletic and Bleacher Report hold a vise over online sports readership, where does SI stand?

The Sports Illustrated brand still owns some pull among Baby Boomers and Generation X. Beyond that, I guess it’s worth…$110 million.

See more posts in the following related categories: media branding


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