The SI starting lineup

Some of the best known corporations in Canada have placed advertising in the first issue of Sports Illustrated''s Canadian version, but are showing uncharacteristic reluctance to comment on their reasons for buying space in North America's premier sports magazine.Some of the...

Some of the best known corporations in Canada have placed advertising in the first issue of Sports Illustrated”s Canadian version, but are showing uncharacteristic reluctance to comment on their reasons for buying space in North America’s premier sports magazine.

Some of the advertisers in the first April issue are Ford of Canada, Black and Decker, Molson Breweries, Gilbey Canada, and unidentified firms in the sporting goods and non-prescription drugs sectors.

Strategy has confirmed Molson and Labatt Breweries will both advertise in the second issue of the Canadian Sports Illustrated, which will hit the newsstands in May. That issue concentrates on the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Chris Banks, manager of corporate affairs at Ford of Canada, says the continent’s number two auto maker has no comment about its advertising in Sports Illustrated.

Calls to the other advertisers and their ad agencies McKim Baker Lovick/BBDO for Black and Decker and Cossette Communication-Marketing for Gilbey – went unanswered.

Sandra Berry, managing director of Time Canada, part of New York’s Time-Warner conglomerate which owns Sports Illustrated, says advertising sales for the magazine have been ‘outstanding.’

Berry says the April issue – which previews the upcoming baseball season – has 40 advertising pages, exceeding her first estimate of 30 or 35 ad pages.

As for the total page count, Berry says the magazine is still being paginated, but will have a ‘strong, strong, Canadian editorial focus.’ One source told Strategy an 80-page April issue sounds about right.

An example of Canadian editorial focus is Alison Gordon’s 2,000-word article on Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.

Gordon, a Toronto baseball writer and crime fiction author, says she has written for the u.s. version of Sports Illustrated, but, as a Canadian cultural nationalist thought at length whether she should write for the Canadian version.

Worth noting in the April issue, says Berry, is the advertising presence of beer companies. She asks rhetorically when was the last time either Labatt or Molson used magazines to advertise?

(The participation of both breweries supports an argument Time Canada made when Strategy first reported Sports Illustrated’s Canadian version Nov. 16: rather than luring ad revenue away from Canadian magazines the sports book will spur new spending by advertisers.)

In the u.s., the weekly Sports Illustrated is heavily skewed towards well-educated men. Each issue has 25 million readers, 77% of them male, according to Sports Illustrated in New York.

The median age of a Sports Illustrated reader is 34.6 years, with a median household income of us$40,039. It has a circulation of 3 million south of the border, and a 96% subscription rate. About half its readers have a university education.

Sports Illustrated says the weekly circulation of its u.s. edition in Canada is 145,000. Canadians pay more than $80 a year for an annual subscription to Sports Illustrated.

Controversy surrounding a Canadian Sports Illustrated has not abated. The Canadian Magazine Publishers Association has strenuously objected to its appearance, saying it contravenes legislation introduced to prevent split-runs by foreign-owned magazines, and the skimming off of Canadian ad revenues by them.

About six weeks ago federal Communications Minister Perrin Beatty promised to defend the Canadian magazine industry, and Revenue Minister Otto Jelinek is reportedly taking a hard look at the rules that allowed a Canadian version of Sports Illustrated.

A month ago Time Canada executives and Revenue Canada officials met in Toronto for talks. One source told Strategy the government officials found everything Sports Illustrated has done is above board.