Machine Gun Kelly at Sports Illustrated: The Party in 2023. Machine Gun Kelly at Sports Illustrated: The Party in 2023. (Medium Rare.)

Around Authentic Brands Group’s 2019 purchase of Sports Illustrated from magazine publisher Meredith, much of the discussion was on how Authentic’s interest was specifically focused on the SI brand. Authentic owns and licenses image rights for everyone from Muhammad Ali through Elvis Presley and Shaquille O’Neal, and their SI purchase gave them control of its image archives and branding.

And that’s what Authentic has been largely focused on with SI, signing a deal with Maven (now Arena Group) to run SI editorial operations while pursuing and expanding their own SI-branded ventures. Those have included resorts, expansion of the swimsuit issue brand, nutrition supplements, and more. But one that’s closer than much of this to traditional sports is a Super Bowl weekend Sports Illustrated: The Party.

SI: The Party made its debut last year (seen above) as one of four events around the game (along with Shaq’s Fun House, Gronk Beach, and Guy’s Flavortown Tailgate) from events company Medium Rare. And Authentic, SI, and Medium Rare announced Thursday that SI: The Party is coming back for another year around this year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas. Here’s more on that from a release:

Sports Illustrated (SI) announced today that SI The Party Presented by Captain Morgan is returning for another year of VIP-driven experiences and iconic performances at Wynn Las Vegas’ famed XS Nightclub. Headlined by The Chainsmokers, Kygo, and special guests, SI The Party presented by Captain Morgan will feature one of Big Game Weekend’s most buzzed about lineups ever. Taking place on Saturday Feb. 10, SI The Party presented by Captain Morgan continues to solidify itself as one of the most coveted tickets outside of the game itself. Produced byAuthentic Entertainmentand Medium Rare, the sports and music spectacle will feature musical performances and immersive activations bringing an ultra-luxe, VIP experience to fans in Vegas for the Big Game. 

XS Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas, one of the most exclusive and top-rated nightclubs in the world, will be reimagined with enhanced production and oversized activations for all attendees to enjoy. Tickets start at just $99 in very limited quantities and increase in price as the event gets closer. All Tickets & VIP Tables are on sale now, visit www.SITHEPARTY.com to learn more. 

…Sports Illustrated has become synonymous with the celebration of sports; fans around the world look to Sports Illustrated to provide unprecedented and unforgettable fan experiences, and SI The Party presented by Captain Morgan is no exception. Open to the public, the event invites fans to mingle with the who’s who of the sports and entertainment worlds. 

Coming out of the success of 2023’s event, Captain Morgan is proud to return as the presenter of SI The Party 2024. Spicing up the Las Vegas scene, Captain Morgan will not only curate the official cocktail of the event but host an on-site experience for guests to enjoy, feature Diageo spirits across all bars and menus, and curate special onstage moments with Captain Morgan talent partners. Together with SI the Party, Captain Morgan will host all 32 NFL Fan of the Year nominees – our country’s biggest NFL superfans from each of the 32 NFL teams. The 2023 NFL Fan of the Year Contest presented by Captain Morgan celebrates and recognizes extraordinary fans who spice up the game through their love of football. 

 “Last year was only the beginning – we are pulling out all the stops, bringing all the spice to Las Vegas and the hottest party during football’s biggest weekend,” said Anne Nosko, VP, Captain Morgan. “All season long, we’ve asked NFL fans to Follow the Captain to unlock one-of-a-kind experiences and we’re thrilled to cap off an incredible season of adventure at SI The Party Presented by Captain Morgan.”

Here’s a video from the 2023 event:

There is some appeal to offering an open-to-the-public (albeit at a notable cost) event like this around the Super Bowl, as many of the parties that weekend are private. And Medium Rare has found success with their athlete and celebrity events at the Super Bowl and elsewhere.

And it’s notable that SI remains a prominent enough brand for Medium Rare to partner with on a big event like this despite recent controversies. Ahead of the inaugural SI: The Party last year, Medium Rare senior director of partnerships Tatum Mannion told AA SI (which they’ve also worked with on The SI Awards) was a great fit for them for an elevated party, and the Captain Morgan partnership involving the NFL Fan of the Year brought a good dimension that tied it right in to the game:

“We’re all in the business of storytelling. So how you tell the story of Shaq with Shaq’s FunHouse or Gronk with Gronk Beach, it’s the same thing with Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated has more of an elevated feel to it, kind of the brand itself, and that’s exactly what the event is. We don’t have a carnival there, we have more VIP and experiences, a lot of VIP tables, the cool nighttime flair. And it’s been incredible working with the Sports Illustrated team and our partners at Authentic Brands Group to bring this to life.”

…”It’s all a matter of telling the story of that brand. And you can see that represented on the ground, whether that’s showing off different Sports Illustrated covers or what schools are represented by Captain Morgan. Captain Morgan has a really unique Fan of the Year program with Sports Illustrated that we’ve highlighted, one fan from each team, all those fans are going to be there. So we’ll have a huge space for these fans of the year to come in and really be honored for being who they are, with that Sports Illustrated flair.”

There’s a lot here that fits with the licensing-heavy approach Authentic tries to take with their wide portfolio of brands. But unlike some of the things they’ve licensed the SI brand out to, there is a direct sports connection here, with this happening on Super Bowl weekend in the host city.

And the SI brand still has a fair bit of power, as the long list of sponsors associated with this shows. And last year’s inaugural event worked out well enough for Authentic, SI, and Medium Rare to do this again. It will be interesting to see if these kinds of SI-branded parties around sports events wind up becoming even more of a practice going forward.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.