Sports Illustrated is gearing up for the college football season with the launch of its newest digital vertical, Campus Rush. The site, which officially debuted yesterday, focuses on the culture and lifestyle surrounding the sport.
According to Sports Illustrated Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum, the audience for both pro and college football on SI.com has grown significantly in recent years, which he attributed not just to the sport's ever-expanding live viewership but to the increasing popularity of fantasy sports and the introduction last year of the College Football Playoff. (The inaugural championship game became the highest-rated cable television program of all time.)
Campus Rush is loosely based on SI's 2-year-old MMQB vertical, which complements SI.com's existing NFL coverage with reporting focused more on analysis and the broader stories within the game (and, added Fichtenbaum, hasn't cannibalized football traffic on SI.com). Similarly, Campus Rush spotlights the "passion, pageantry and culture" of college football, said Fichtenbaum—think fewer stats and hard news stories and more behind-the-scenes and lifestyle articles. For example, Campus Rush will be partnering with fellow Time Inc. brand Southern Living on a guide to the best restaurants near SEC and ACC schools.
To provide readers with an inside look at college football around the country, Campus Rush built a "social wall" that displays curated tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, and more from contributors and fans on the ground. Every Saturday, the social wall will be featured front and center on the site.
Contributors include a number of current SI writers as well as newly minted "Campus Correspondents," a group of 66 student journalists from top football schools. SI.com executive editor BJ Schecter is overseeing editorial operations.
Finish Line and Go RVing have both signed on as launch sponsors. The latter is also sponsoring a 10-city tailgate tour with celebrity chefs and athletes that will be featured in a video series on the site.
While football will remain the sole focus of Campus Rush for the time being, Fichtenbaum said he is open to adding coverage of other college sports—likely basketball—in the future.