On its 50th anniversary, 1,000 copies of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue won’t by covered by one of today’s hottest super models or even a human. Instead a plastic, blonde Barbie rocks a retro black-and-white one-piece on the coveted annual issue. That’s because Mattel and SI have come together for an “unapologetic” promotional campaign:
“Unapologetic,” the theme of the campaign, is underlined by its use, with a hashtag in front, in social media like Twitter, as well as on a billboard in Times Square. “As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in” the issue “gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic,” Mattel said in a statement on Tuesday.
Inside the magazine, which hits newsstands Sunday, Barbie will gloss a four-page advertorial spread. To mark the event, Mattel is also issuing a limited edition collector’s doll, which will look exactly like the one on the Sports Illustrated cover, sold exclusively at Target.com.
There are a lot of issues in this... issue. First, Barbie continues to be sexualized. She’s a plastic children’s toy, but it’s also not far from the image other models who represent on the cover each year, some who have had plastic parts of their own. Instead of Kate Middleton or Tyra Banks, Barbie takes the role of hot cover girl for the limited editions. Second, this is an in-your-face ad campaign. Barbie’s appeal has been on a downward slump for quite some time and Mattel has been scrambling to try and boost the doll's image to reignite the interest of its audience. The 2013 holiday sales for Barbie were at their lowest since 2008. Mattel’s shares were also down 9.7 percent and sales dropped 6 percent.
To boost profits, Barbie's owners wanted to command a bigger audience so Mattel contacted Sports Illustrated over half a year ago in hopes of a collaboration to reach SI's female readers. But aren’t most of those women well past the age of playing with dolls? Or were they hoping to reach more mothers in hopes of having them purchase a Barbie for their children? Is Sports Illustrated also trying to reaffirm that as long as you have the right body shape, you'll make it on magazine covers? With the Winter Olympics being one of the hottest current topics, some are wondering why a female U.S. athlete was not given the honor instead.
Here are some Twitter user reactions:
Barbie is going to be on this years Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. Apparently their target audience is now preteen girls...
— Verb (@VernNotice) February 12, 2014
Who is the target audience for the Barbie-Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue spread? Men? Women? Dolls? pic.twitter.com/58ZBYYAKy1
— Marketplace (@MarketplaceAPM) February 12, 2014
We’re not exactly sure what their technique is here but we think the new limited-edition cover will do nothing more than attract even more hatred for the out of touch doll company. Really, it’s Mattel who is the “unapologetic” one.