Barbie Gets the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Treatment


Barbie and Sports Illustrated are joining forces to tell a world of body conscious pricks to suck it, apparently, with a new magazine cover next week. Or, you know, it could just be a new creative way to make up for all of the Barbies Mattel didn’t sell over the Christmas shopping season.

“The reality is, we just didn’t sell enough Barbie dolls,” Bryan G. Stockton, chief executive, said in a conference call with analysts on Jan. 31. Sales of Barbie fell 13 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the period the previous year.

The 50th anniversary of the Sports illustrated swimsuit issue debuts next Tuesday, reports the New York Times, and Barbie will be all dolled up with a refreshed take on her first black-and-white suit she wore back in 1959. Mattel created an entire campaign around the partnership —or really sponsored content since the company paid for the privilege to take over SI — called #unapologetic. And yes, you’re right that is also the name of Rihanna’s last album.

“While the social campaigns are unrelated,” said a spokeswoman for Mattel, Michelle Chidoni, “they both embody similar messages.”

So Barbie is now in favor of smoking blunts on the beach? Hey, no judgment — but that just doesn’t seem like the Barbie ethos Mattel’s been hawking for 55 years.

In terms of the actual campaign, Barbie will cover the new Sports Illustrated with a four-page advertorial feature inside, along with the launch of a full scale integrated marketing push naming Barbie “The Doll That Started It All.” There will be a limited-edition Sports Illustrated Barbie sold only on, a billboard in Times Square and a Twitter push complete with the aforementioned hashtag.

But for all the fanfare, the reactions have been varied. Some mothers are unimpressed with the doll’s unrealistic frame and annoyed that the company is still trying to push the skewed image to their children. Others appreciate the doll’s new sassy attitude and still others think it’s “creepy” to sex up a plastic doll on a magazine cover that usually features real models like Tyra Banks or Christie Brinkley.

Ultimately, Barbie is an American institution, albeit a problematic one, but it seems we might be outgrowing our famous play thing.

Sports Illustrated image via New York Times.

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