Sports Illustrated introduces Spanish-language edition

People en Español is the successful Latino offshoot of People. Will Sports Illustrated en Español be next? Actually, Sports Illustrated Latino is the working title, but it hasn't been confirmed yet, with consumer tests in progress to select the new publication's name. Time Warner will launch the magazine in April, with the first of three controlled issues this year, the second one will be published in August, that will be sent to Latino customers of Time Warner products, including Sports Illustrated (circ. 3.3 million), People en Español, Time Warner Cable and HBO Latino. There will be no newsstand sales available this year.

The controlled circulation will be used for the first three issues to test the market. "We'll reach out to the group and connect with them," says SI's executive marketing director Stacey Vollman. "We feel it's the best way to do it to learn from them."

Javier Escobedo, managing partner of Ole, a Latino advertising agency, was so excited about the introduction of the magazine that he opposed the controlled tests. "It has huge potential and I would just sell it, because everyone would buy it," he told Portada®. "I'd buy five pages for my clients tomorrow."

Escobedo is excited about the project because of the limited number of Latino sports publications in the U.S. "We get good magazines from Mexico, but we need more titles here," he says. "Print in the U.S. is very depressed, TV is so much larger, it's a huge problem."

SI will attempt to solve the problem with a general sports magazine in Spanish that will start with a baseball issue in April in conjunction with SI's baseball preview issue. "It's the perfect time to jump off," says Sandy Rosenbush, SI's assistant managing editor. The second issue in August will offer an NFL preview and the third issue late in the year will offer a World Cup soccer 2006 preview. The issues will be smaller than typical SIs, less than 64 pages, with 12 to 15 for advertising.

Vollman says it has been "extremely well received from the advertising community," with the auto industry buying first and “Ford, Chrysler, GMC and Chevy are the first announced advertisers. Apparel, beer and liquor, fast food and the armed forces are other categories that will buy”, Vollman says. She declined to announce the price of the ads.

SI has tried bilingual issues before, first in 2001, around the time of 9/11, which hindered the test. A Latin heritage issue was published last year with a single sponsor, Pennzoil. This is the first time SI will publish editions in Spanish.

There is a big chance for success because 12 to 13 percent of SI's 3.2 million subscribers are Latino. The rate base for the three test issues is half a million, according to Vollman.

Geoffrey Fuentes, an executive assistant at The Bravo Group, the Latino ad agency, thinks it will work because of the growing Hispanic population and the fact that so many are sports lovers. "We explore new roads to get into the market, so we'll look at it," he says.

Thomas Oliver, executive director and CEO of the National Hispanic Press Association, wonders how many members of the controlled circulation will have a preference for reading in Spanish. And he wonders whether the content will be right for them. "The writing style will have to be appealing to the audience to invest their time and effort into reading it and view it as a credible source for advertising," he says.

SI says the editorial content will be original, not translations. It will include shorter versions of SI features written by current staff members and freelancers.

Perhaps the biggest reason for success is the lack of competition in the category. Oliver says Latino newspapers offer good general Spanish language sports coverage, but few other magazines do. Fútbol Mundial (Sensación Marketing, monthly, circ. 1,000,000) is the leading Spanish language sports publication in the U.S. with a circulation of one million, but it only covers soccer, not all sports. "I feel the market has room for more sports titles," says Fútbol Mundial's publisher Felix Sención. "I am honored that SI has decided to enter a space that they have clearly ignored." His hope is that SI will produce a quality product that will enhance the Hispanic sports publishing market. Sención intends to launch a Spanish-language baseball magazine later this year.

Ken Liebeskind

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