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Sports Illustrated to Crowdsource Year-End Issue Cover
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Sports Illustrated to Crowdsource Year-End Issue Cover

The iconic weekly Sports Illustrated recently announced it is letting its readers and fans choose the cover photo for the magazine’s year-end issue.

The December 31st edition will feature the fans’ choice for the best moment of the year. Readers will also be able to vote for the performer and picture of the year, scheduled to appear in the previous two issues.

Voting will take place on the magazine’s Facebook page, which has over a quarter million ‘Likes.’ The campaign will begin on November 22nd, when fans will be able to choose their favorite five photographs of the performer of the year. Voting will be open for a week, followed by the next category. The crowdsourced performer of the year will appear in the December 17th issue of the magazine, and picture of the year will be featured the following week.

Sports Illustrated, which has been published since 1951, caused a bit of a stir last year when it decided to let its readers choose the end of the year issue's cover for the first time in the magazine's history. It looks like the executives considered the campaign successful enough for an encore.

Last year, readers decided the best moment of 2011 to be the return of Eric LeGrand onto the football field in his wheelchair. The 22 year-old Rutgers defensive tackle had been paralyzed from the neck down after suffering an injury during an October 2010 game.

The campaign itself is not particularly revolutionary, and may even cross into what our Eric Mack labeled as crowd-surfacing – running a faux crowdsourcing campaign not to engage the fans, but to make use of a popular trend. For Sports Illustrated, however, this initiative seems to be a good fit. Deciding on the most inspiring and best photos and moments of the year is something the public at large should have a say in, not just a few editors.

It would have been difficult, however, to truly open a contest like this up to the crowd and (for example) ask individuals to submit their own photos, because the contributions would likely be of poor quality. And by keeping some editorial control over the campaign, the magazine can prevent the sort of marketing disasters that have happened when there were too few rules to guide the crowd.

You can read about some of those blunders here and here. Also, check out our piece on another recent crowdsourcing campaign undertaken by a well-known brand.

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