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Nokia Lumia 1020 ads blur line between marketing and editorial in Sports Illustrated

Al Sacco | Aug. 27, 2013
Sports Illustrated magazine ran a number of images taken with the AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone in two of its August issues, followed by full-page Lumia ads.'s Al Sacco think SI should have been clearer about the line between ads and editorial content. Here's why.

A few weeks ago, I received a Nokia Lumia 1020 review unit in the mail. The device is Nokia's current flagship Windows Phone smartphone, and though I'm honestly not a big fan of Microsoft's mobile OS, Nokia makes great hardware. And the Lumia 1020 device has one notably-unique feature: A 41-megapixel digital camera.

sports illustrated

The first thing I did after setting up my Lumia 1020 was experiment with the camera. I eventually wrote an in-depth comparison of the Lumia 1020's camera and the digital shooters on two other high-end smartphones. 

I've since put the Lumia 1020 to the side, but the device and its cool camera still have my attention. So an ongoing ad campaign in Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine quickly caught my eye.

A couple of months ago, I randomly started receiving SI in the mail. I have no idea why; I never subscribed, as far as I know. And I haven't been charged for it. But that's beside the point of this post. I've been reading SI, and among the first few pages of the Aug. 19 issue was a two-page photo spread composed of four images of baseball parks taken at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Coliseum in Oakland and Citi Field in Queens.

The images were all very cool looking, (see above image, which was also taken with a Lumia 1020) but it wasn't just the photos that caught my eye - it was the text that accompanied the pictures. That text explained that the images had all been captured by "SI photographers...shooting with the AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020."

Huh. Why, I wondered, would SI photogs be using Lumia 1020 devices to capture images for the magazine? Did AT&T and/or Nokia pay them to capture and use the images? And if so, why aren't the images clearly marked as advertisements? (Or why aren't they unclearly marked, with barely-readable text or something?)

I continued flipping through that issue of SI, and a few more pages in, I came to a full-page Lumia 1020 ad from AT&T. Convenient, no?

The whole thing kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I forgot about it until a week later when I opened up the Aug. 26 issue of SI and found the same thing: Another photograph "captured with an AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020" - this time of the Los Angeles Angels' bench and Angels disappointment star Josh Hamilton - followed by, you guessed it, another AT&T Lumia 1020 ad.

I'm a professional journalist, and I work for a large publishing company. I understand the necessary relationship between the media and advertisers, and I do not "hate" ads or advertisers. To the contrary, ads pay my bills, at least to some extent. And I just took on a new car payment, so I really appreciate those ads at this point.


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