If this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue feels a little more animated than usual, it's likely because of the characters from FX's Archer. As part of the marketing campaign for the hit animated comedy's upcoming seventh season, the network partnered with Sports Illustrated to feature faux swimsuit shots of its female characters in both the print issue and online.
Last week's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue included an ad featuring Pam Poovey, one of the characters from Archer. The prominently displayed photography and swimsuit credits—key components of swimsuit issue art—mention two of the show's male characters, Sterling Archer and Ray Gillette. The ad was one of several surprising elements in this year's swimsuit issue, which featured three separate covers and a Snickers back-cover ad with an epic Photoshop fail.
Starting today, an expanded look at "The Girls of Archer" is available as branded content on SI.com's Swim Daily, part of its swimsuit section. The package includes swimsuit shots of the show's three female lead characters—Pam (voiced by Amber Nash), Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) and Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler)—and more information about the tie-in between SI and Archer, which has its Season 7 premiere on March 31. Images of Pam and Lana also appear elsewhere on the Sports Illustrated site to drive traffic to the branded content.
"Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue is a cultural icon, and we were thinking of fun ways we could take part," said Lance Reiss, svp of marketing for FX. "That led us to working on the idea of including the girls of Archer, and we're tying together the print product, the digital product, and it will have a social element to it. ... These are the kinds of ideas that not only push us but help us keep it fresh for a seventh season of a show."
The SI partnership was initially only going to include the digital branded content, but Reiss said, "The more we talked about it, we thought that having an ad that looks organic to the environment that also helps us promote the show is a perfect compliment."
The swimsuit images also serve to tee up the new location for Archer's seventh season: Los Angeles, where the former New York-based international spies are now working as private investigators. "There are some hints there that the show is moving to L.A.," Reiss said.
This is the third year Archer's marketing has revolved around revealing photos of its animated cast. In 2014, FX posted nude photos of Archer's cast to Reddit's /r/GoneWild subreddit. And last year's campaign included "hacked" naked photos from Pam's phone that were posted online.
While Lana would have been "more of a conventional" choice to appear in the swimsuit issue, Reiss said, "Pam is such a crowd favorite and embodies sort of an unabashed spirit that it's fun to do things with her. Last year, we did the leaked photos, and this year, we thought she'd be a perfect compliment. ... Pam is our fun-loving spirit who has a wild personality, and that's what's fun about it."
The swimsuit issue partnership is "just one element" of FX's Season 7 marketing campaign for Archer, according to Reiss. "We have other things in the works," he said. "We have a custom 'turn off your cellphone' message that will be in theaters nationwide that involves some of the characters, so these are layers that we like to build upon."
One early layer of the campaign was a shot-for-shot remake of Magnum P.I.'s opening credits, featuring the Archer cast, which FX posted earlier this month to lay the groundwork for the show's private-investigator arc this season.