Megan Rapinoe Honored at First Sports Illustrated Event Under Authentic Brands

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Sports Illustrated named Megan Rapinoe its 2019 Sportsperson of the Year during a Monday night gala, the first event organized by Authentic Brands Group since it acquired the publication’s intellectual property in May from Meredith Corp.

If you didn’t already know, Rapinoe is the outspoken star of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, who helped lead the team to victory in this year’s World Cup. During a seated dinner at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan, the honorees mixed with presenters, including basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp and journalist Ann Curry.

It is the first of many such bashes the brand development, marketing and entertainment company has in the works as it looks to expand the Sports Illustrated business. Look for Authentic Brands to host events under the magazine’s moniker for the Super Bowl, the Swimsuit Edition and the Fashionable 50.

In preparation for the events, Authentic Brands is partnering with publisher Maven, which took over the license from Meredith to operate the Sports Illustrated media business in June. That business includes the digital and print editions, as well as Sports Illustrated Kids, video channels, bookazines and special interest publications. Maven will develop new digital media channels.

Under terms of the agreement, Maven is paying Authentic Brands royalties based on gross revenues. In return, Authentic Brands is paying Maven a share of the revenues related to businesses not under the licensing agreement, such as commerce.

In tandem with the June licensing deal, Ross Levinsohn was named CEO of Sports Illustrated and a president at Maven. During an interview at the Monday night event, he said there were a number of potential ways to expand the media property’s presence including movies and television, though specific plans have yet to be formed.

Levinsohn also sees an opportunity in developing educational content for Sports Illustrated Kids, namely tutorials on the mechanics involved in playing different sports, such as throwing a football or pitching a baseball.

In that vein, one of the key opportunities for Sports Illustrated is to marry its editorial content to Authentic Brands’ event-planning expertise, said the publication’s editor in chief Steve Cannella. He noted that organizing the Sportsperson of the Year shindig was an opportunity for Authentic Brands and Sports Illustrated to get to know each other.

Cannella, who was appointed to the role in October, said the goal of Sports Illustrated following its purchase is not only to reach new audiences, but also to offer new experiences.

Sportsperson of the Year aside, the purchase of Sports Illustrated—and more recently luxury retailer Barneys—continues to expand Authentic Brands’ empire. The marketing and branding firm’s intellectual property portfolio now generates $10 billion in global retail sales annually, said its CEO Jamie Salter at the event.

Not only has Authentic Brands continued to be active on the acquisition front during 2019, its private equity backer Leonard Green & Partners sold a majority stake to BlackRock in August for a reported $875 million. Leonard Green remains a shareholder, however, along with private equity firm General Atlantic, Lion Capital, Authentic Brands founder and CEO Jamie Salter, and Shaquille O’Neal, among others.

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