Why 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' will only work with brands that 'prove they are creating change for women'

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit announces new
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit announces new "Pay With Change" initiative. (Photo: Yu Tsai/ Sports Illustrated)

While paving the way for a more inclusive and empowering future for women, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is inviting other companies to do the same with the introduction of a new advertising mandate.

Pay With Change was announced by the iconic swimsuit brand on Thursday with a video reflecting on the publication's history and highlighting new steps to creating a better future. In it, the magazine's editor-in-chief MJ Day shared that the price of doing business with the brand is now being a part of progress.

"Pay with Change is our new advertising mandate. It only allows brands who are helping to drive gender equality forward to be featured in the print issue and across all of our platforms," Day tells Yahoo Life.

A press release from the brand further explains what it takes to advertise within the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, sharing that brands must "prove they are creating change for women" in order to be "certified as a Changemaker, which is defined as a brand who has made, is making and will make progress for women by May 2022 when the annual SI Swimsuit Issue hits stands. Each changemaking brand will then be able to purchase a space within the print edition, which will only feature adverts showcasing the progress each brand is making to build equity for all women."

Day shares hopes that even brands who have yet to engage with inclusivity through their marketing and messaging will see this as an invitation to do so.

"We're understanding that there are some brands and companies that have very much well established initiatives going on, we understand that there are brands and companies that may see this as an opportunity to create an initiative and this may be their first time kind of dipping their toe into it," she says.

"This direction will hopefully revolutionize the entire industry and create endless opportunities for women, because not only will it encourage big brands to pursue these avenues of empowerment and growth and support for women," she explains, "but those areas and initiatives that they invest into will then have a moment in the spotlight to inevitably make us all way more involved and aware and empowered — where we all win."

It isn't the first time that the brand has set the precedent for diversity and inclusion, as the pages of its magazine have included women who are curvy, have disabilities, are over 50 and are transgender in ways that the rest of the modeling industry has not. Still, Day explains, when flipping through the pages of its 2021 issue, she noticed that the advertisements didn't properly illustrate the brand's mission.

"We found ourselves looking at cigarette ads in our magazine and thinking, 'Oh, that doesn't fit what we were trying to do,' and it was really upsetting," she says. "It really became evident to us that there was a real place for growth and evolution not just within our brand but within the industry. And to us, it's worth doing it now, it's worth being first, it's worth saying we believe in this and we're going to commit to this and we are going to make those the commonality, and a thread that we weave throughout our brand."

While the initiative will allow Sports Illustrated Swimsuit to invest a percentage of every ad dollar generated to create a gender equity fund in support of a non-profit helping to create an equitable future for all women, Day also points to the significant non-monetary impact that this change will have on culture simply through the eyes of readers.

Chrissy Teigen praised the move on her Instagram Stories. (Screenshot: Instagram)
Chrissy Teigen praised the move on her Instagram Stories. (Screenshot: Instagram)

"Seeing yourself reflected in an ad, whether you're young or old, or curvier, athletic or tall or short, it legitimizes beliefs and opinions and feelings that you have about yourself and allows you to evolve yourself. Just having that sort of ideology out there representing the permission to think differently about business, about brands, about products, about brands that do business with products and why they do it, and how you want to spend your money against it, I think it's informative, it's inspiring," Day explains.

"It's using that power for good it," she stresses. "It's still doing your business, but it's also allowing that business to do good for others, as well. And I totally believe you could do both things."

A number of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models and alums shared their support for the brand on social media.

"This is so incredible," Chrissy Teigen wrote on her Instagram stories. "I am so proud to have been apart [sic] of @SI_Swimsuit's legacy. They changed my life and now they're changing the game!"

Model Josephine Skriver also praised the brand's new advertising standard on her own Instagram stories. "Brands can advertise all the positive momentum they're making for women instead of selling products that tell us how to look or feel," she wrote. "SI has been disrupting the industry and making strides for women by celebrating beauty and power of inclusivity and diversity for years, and now they're taking commitment to women a step further with #PayWithChange."

The rollout of this new standard will be seen in the upcoming annual issue, hitting stands in May 2022. However, Day says that'll just be the start to a "forever" change.

"At the end of the day, this kind of stuff doesn't happen overnight," she says of the impact she hopes the initiative will have. "And if that means we have we don't sell as many pages as we want to, that's the price we're willing to pay for progress. And I think it's a worthy sacrifice."

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