The title's internal PR staff began publicizing the archive, branded SI Vault, on March 1, holding media tours for top national news organizations, as well as tech and sports titles. The budget for the campaign, which is using the tagline "Your link to sports history," is undisclosed.
As many as eight columnists, including Peter King and Tom Verducci, have plugged the archive during TV and radio interviews.
The magazine timed the Thursday launch to coincide with the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
The publication is targeting all "passionate, hard-core sports fans" with the promotions, said Scott Novak, VP of communications, Sports Illustrated Group. He added that market research indicated the digital archive would be popular with both the 18- to 35-year-old and 35-and-over demographics.
SI, a division of Time Inc., is trying to differentiate the Vault's content as more interactive than standard searchable article archives, Novak said.
"We're defining this as much more dynamic than a static search-and-get-the-article site," he noted. "You can punch in names, terms, dates, and get that archived information; you can search [the way] you can through a Wikipedia search engine; or you can search video and it can forward you on to the Web."
The archive contains more than 150,000 articles, 500,000 images, and 2,800 covers, tripling the size of SI.com. It also features AOL-owned video search engine Truveo, which can direct users to sports content not available on the Web site.
SI expects to add 5 million unique users "in a short time," similar to the number that visited the Web site in the weeks after FanNation's relaunch last April. SI.com receives 6 million unique monthly viewers, according to Nielsen Online, Novak said, adding that other services rank it higher.