Ronda Rousey is one of several athletes baring it all in this year’s ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue, and the Strikeforce champion’s sexy photo shoot is a perfect example of why the Body Issue is a better project that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition.
It is not an easy market for magazines nowadays, and the simple truth of our society is that an attractive person wearing little or no clothes is going to sell copies.
According to StateOfTheMedia.org, overall magazine circulation dropped 1.5 percent in 2010.
In order to stay financially viable, both popular sports magazines have used the best sales strategy there is—sex.
According to Business Insider, the swimsuit edition accounts for seven percent of Sports Illustrated’s annual revenue.
The moral questions surrounding the tactic are a discussion for another time. The numbers show that it works, and both magazines are going to keep releasing scintillating photos once a year as long as they are in circulation.
But if sports magazines like SI and ESPN are going to publish photos of naked or nearly-naked people, doesn’t it make sense that the subjects are talented athletes like Rousey?
While the photographers, designers, artists and models who work to produce the Swimsuit Edition are certainly talented in their own right, they do not have anything at all to do with sports. The edition is showcase for gorgeous women and a catalog for overpriced swimwear.
The models for ESPN’s Body Issue are some of the best athletes across both male and female sports today. Rousey is an undefeated bantamweight Strikforce champion.
Other covers feature Tyson Chandler, an NBA champion and the reigning Defensive Player of the year, as well as Candace Parker, one of the top talents in women’s basketball and Rob Gronkowski, the NFL’s record holder for most touchdown catches by a tight end in a single season.
For one edition a year, Sports Illustrated completely ignores the sporting world and publishes photos of attractive women in order to sell copies.
While ESPN has the same financial motivation behind the Body Issue, they at least maintain their identity as a sports magazine by using attractive athletes as models.
There are other benefits to using athletes in the issue as well. These are people who train their bodies to perform at high levels, whereas many fashion models starve themselves to maintain their weight and shape.
As the popular saying goes, “Strong is the new skinny.” Rousey’s photo shoot definitely supports this body image mantra.
ESPN’s Body Issue is relevant to sports and helps support positive body image ideals, and these characteristics of the issue make it a better feature than SI’s Swimsuit Edition.