YouTube's DanceOn Channel, backed by Madonna and manager Guy Oseary, has been attempting to bring the dance competition genre to YouTube, complete with YouTube "stars" as competitors. Now it has a sponsor that will be integrated into the show, much like "American Idol"'s Coca-Cola deal a decade ago.
The show, "Dance Showdown," is a cross between "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars." After a first season without a sponsor, Ubisoft's "Just Dance 4" has signed on for season two.
In the show, each YouTube personality is paired with a professional choreographer and then judged by the YouTube audience. WoodysGamertag won the first season and the $25,000 cash prize. That prize will grow to $100,000 in the second season, starting October 5, thanks to Ubisoft.
But the brand will not only be a sponsor, it will be integrated into the show's content. Contestants will be introduced to the audience, for example, as they are playing "Just Dance 4." The stages will be branded with the "Just Dance 4" logo. And the game's avatars will hang out in the Dance Showdown lounge.
In a nod to "American Idol," the show is taking on judges, including Joey Fatone from 'N SYNC, celebrity choreographer Laurieann Gibson, and rotating guest judges Ryan Higa, Dave Days and Shane Dawson.
Like a lot of YouTube's original channels struggling to get off the ground, DanceOn was seeking sponsors for "Dance Showdown," which garnered 10 million views during its first season and helped to double the channel's subscribers, said Amanda Taylor, founder and CEO of DanceOn. The premise of the dance video game, where players mimic on-screen avatars matched well with the series. "[DanceOn] came to us with the show concept that was really fun and playful and it's really in keeping with the tone of the 'Just Dance' brand...It was a perfect match," said Carrie Feigel, associate director of marketing at Ubisoft.
Ubisoft is involved with other YouTube shows, such as Machinima, Smosh, Epic Meal Time , etc., through their traditional YouTube channels, but the DanceOn integration is its first partnership with a YouTube Original Channel. Although the video-game company is open to working with other original channels on a case-by -case basis, depending on how organic the fit feels.
"We're certainly keeping an eye on the space to see how it evolves, but our partnership with DanceOn is atypical compared to other YouTube Original channels," said Adam Krause, senior media manager at Ubisoft. "In most cases, YouTube is leading the sales efforts for Original Channels, and their sponsorship packages are well outside of our price range for a typical launch campaign. It's our understanding that more Original Channels will start representing their own inventory in the near future. At that time, we hope to have more scalable options available for sponsorships and custom integrations."
And DanceOn, which was founded in 2010 by Ms. Taylor, will be looking for more brands to partner with as it begins to roll out the series into foreign territories like the UK and Australia.
"The popularity of dance TV shows has put the limelight on dance like it hasn't before," said Ms. Taylor. "Dance is a universal language that is popular everywhere."