In the Super Bowl, GQ Sports Eyes Its Met Gala Moment

An ambitious new event from the publisher aims to elevate its newest franchise

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This week, the GQ franchise GQ Sports announced the launch of its first consumer event, a one-night celebration tied to the Super Bowl called the GQ Sports Style Hall of Fame, an effort that will strengthen the experiential portfolio of Condé Nast and draw more deeply from brands’ sports marketing budgets.

The event, which takes place in Scottsdale, Ariz., the night before the Super Bowl, will honor the first three inductees to the GQ Sports Style Hall of Fame, athletes Deion Sanders, Allen Iverson and Derek Jeter. 

The evening also represents a key development for the GQ Sports franchise, which launched in September 2019 and has had to contend with more than two years of inconsistency across the world of professional sports.

The vertical, which launched in September 2019 and is now under the domain of its newly appointed director Sam Schube, has sought to expand the GQ aperture by connecting with men through the dress, lives and cultural cachet of athletes, according to GQ global editorial director Will Welch.

In doing so, it has opened up the publisher to new audiences, advertisers and opportunities, and marks the first sustained foray from any Condé Nast title into the world of sports, said Elizabeth Webbe Lunny, the chief business officer of the style division at Condé Nast. 

Since GQ Sports launched, digital revenue and digital subscriptions for GQ have risen 21% and 38%, respectively, according to the publisher, although the upticks are due to a variety of factors. 

By orchestrating events that act as companions to preexisting events—as Conde titles Vogue and Vanity Fair do with the Met Gala and the Oscars, respectively—its activations cut through the noise and benefit from heightened reach.

In turn, the scale boosts available impressions and deal size, an increasingly important component as Condé Nast eyes international budgets.

“There is a ton of opportunity with clients that spend an enormous amount of money in the sports space,” Lunny said. “We get that type of advertising at Condé Nast, but we didn’t have the sports part of that conversation before.” 

Deion Sanders, Allen Iverson and Derek Jeter
The three inaugural inductees of the GQ Sports Style Hall of Fame: Deion Sanders, Allen Iverson and Derek Jeter.L – R: Adrienne Raquel/GQ; Daniel Jackson/GQ; Danielle Levitt/GQ

Ticketing and on-site sponsorship 

The annual event will generate revenue through a mix of ticketing and on-site sponsorships, though it declined to share financial projections.

Presale tickets will run $300 for general admission and $1,250 for VIP, the latter of which entitles holders to a swath of perks, including a meet-and-greet with GQ editors, a curated gift box and complimentary cocktails during the reception. 

For football fans spending thousands of dollars to attend the Super Bowl, the additional cost of the Style Hall of Fame event is likely minimal, said Blake Kotenbrink, senior vice president and group director of the luxury division at experiential agency Momentum Worldwide.

For the on-site sponsorships, it has drawn interest from advertisers in the spirits, tech and automotive sectors, and GQ Sports is working with a fashion house to launch a branded campaign aligned to the Super Bowl, Lunny said.

With its focus on chronicling the lives of athletes beyond the stadium, the franchise aims to differentiate itself from other sports publishers that focus more on box scores and lineups, according to Welch. The intersection of luxury fashion and sports also combines two advertising bases that have remained resilient amid the softening ad market.

“Sports fans today care about so much more than just the games,” Welch said. “And that broader, always-churning conversation about the culture of sports is our domain.” 

Courting sports marketing budgets and new audiences

Signature stories, such as Scottie Pippen Has Something to Say and Kris Wilka Just Wants to Play Football, have helped the vertical double its traffic from 2020 to 2022, and time spent by readers on GQ Sports stories has risen 460% in the same time period, according to the publisher. 

Audience data also suggests that the franchise is attracting new fans to the brand: In December, 29% of its YouTube viewers were watching GQ Sports but had not subscribed to its flagship YouTube account. 

Since 2021, the franchise has grown its YouTube audience by 31%, doubled its Instagram following and tripled its TikTok fanbase.

“Ad buyers are laser-focused on the Gen Z population and how they can effectively tap into this influential consumer demographic,” Kotenbrink said. “If GQ can capture this generation, advertisers will follow.”

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