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Which Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Is Leading the Conversation on Social Media?

Another win for Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey's SI Swimsuit cover accounted for more than half of the social media chatter. Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated made history this week with the release of its annual Swimsuit edition cover—or, more accurately, covers.

For the first time, the Time Inc. brand produced multiple covers—three, to be exact—for its top-selling issue of the year. Along with model Hailey Clauson, the other two covers feature Ashley Graham, the first size 16 model to be featured on the cover, and UFC star Ronda Rousey.

And considering Rousey's star power, it may not come as a surprise that the former bantamweight champion scored a knockout on social media. According to data from social media analytics firm NetBase provided to Adweek by digital marketing agency PM Digital, Rousey's cover accounted for 61 percent of the social conversation around the issue since the release of the covers Monday night.

Rousey's cover attracted 154,879 mentions across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram (hashtag mentions only for Instagram) and YouTube. That was nearly double the amount of mentions for Graham (86,090), who accounted for 34 percent of the total conversation. Clauson's cover only grabbed 5 percent of the conversation with 13,662 mentions.

NetBase also measured net sentiment, positive or negative feelings about a brand, finding that while Rousey's cover got the most chatter, more than half of it was negative (59 percent). For Graham, more than two-thirds (69 percent) was positive. Clauson got the most positive talk with 76 percent.

"By featuring Ashley Graham on its cover and becoming a part of the growing social buzz around acceptance that all body types are beautiful, Sports Illustrated has already increased its average weekly social mentions by nearly 1,000 percent in just one week," said Toni Box, senior director of social media and content for PM Digital. "[SI] has increased its passion intensity, positive emotions associated with the brand, significantly."

While this is the first time Sports Illustrated has published separate covers for the swimsuit issue, it's not the first time multiple models were featured. In 1994, SI put Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson and Rachel Hunter on the cover. For its 50th anniversary edition in 2014, SI featured Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen.

The first SI swimsuit spread was a five-page supplement in January 1964. It became a stand-alone issue in 1997. The annual swimsuit edition makes up about 7 percent of SI's annual revenue, according to Forbes.

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