Sports Illustrated has covered some famous duos over the decades: Jordan and Pippen. Venus and Serena. Kobe and Shack. Now, SI is trying to form its own creative duo by teaming up with JCPenney – the department store chain – to launch a clothing line.
Dubbed “Sports Illustrated for JCPenney,” the group debuted in December at a glamorous fashion show held at the annual SI Awards “Break.” On January 6, the clothing line was launched in JCPenney stores and on its website.
Here’s how JCPenney described the line in a press release:
Combining iconic sporting moments inspired by the archives of Sports Illustrated and the powerful JCPenney interior design team, the collection embodies a modern sense of strength, power, confidence and movement.
Offering an unparalleled fusion of sport and elegance, the collection is distinguished by its elegant shades, modern fabrics and bold design. Sports Illustrated for JCPenney is made with inclusivity in mind, and offers a wide range of sizes for all ages.
The line features men’s, women’s, and children’s styles with some plus-size, large, and tall options. Many items have bright colors and prints.
After browsing the collection on JCPenney’s website, though, we’re not quite sure where the “famous sports moments inspired by the Sports Illustrated archives” come from. Most of the designs are fairly simple, and nearly all of them lack any kind of overt SI branding. The most we get is the “SI” logo here or there, with a few graphic tees featuring larger (but still subtle) logos.
The whole thing looks more like an off-brand sportswear collection that mostly consists of sports bras, leggings, hoodies, and track pants – which makes sense. If you’re going to launch a new line of sports and performance apparel, you could do worse than associate it with a brand synonymous with athletics.
Sports Illustrated is one of the biggest names in sports media, but when its publisher, Meredith Group, sold the brand in 2019 amid a tumultuous digital publishing scene, its future was uncertain. The buyer was Authentic Brands Group – not a publisher, but a licensing company. The company quickly disposed of SI’s print and digital copyrights to another investor group, then known as The Maven.
This setup should have told us that SI’s plan was always to expand the brand beyond the publishing world. And the clothing set is logical. We’ve seen a lot of brands going this way before as they look to expand beyond their initial product to reach a larger audience and diversify revenue. PF Chang just did it in the restaurant space. Peloton, the sportbike brand, has done just that with great success.
Only time will tell if it works for SI, but with sportswear marketing still booming, this isn’t a bad place to start.