On Monday night, ABC announced the season-12 cast for Dancing with the Stars. The lineup—probably the weakest to date—features Sugar Ray Leonard, Hines Ward, Ralph Macchio, Chris Jericho, Lil' Romeo, Kendra Wilkinson, Kirstie Alley, Wendy Williams, Chelsea Kane, Petra Nemcova and Mike Catherwood. After the jump, Octagon First Call's David Schwab makes his predictions for the marketing potential of this year's dancers.
This season will be the biggest test to date for Dancing with the Stars. It has consistently delivered 20 million-plus viewers (twice a week), but this year's cast is the least well known since the show's inception.
DWTS has reinvigorated more celebrities' careers than all other reality shows combined. Look no further than Brooke Burke (Modern Mom, DWTS host); Jennie Garth (new Dove girl/Oscars ad), Emmitt Smith (Hershey's, Good Feet, Just For Men), Julianne Hough (Caress, Proactiv, music career, upcoming Footloose), John O'Hurley (Family Feud host), Mario Lopez (Pepsi, M&M's, book deal, Extra!), Apolo Ohno (Subway, Oreo, corporate speaking), Florence Henderson (Zicam) … and many more.
With the new cast just announced, here are our predictions for the top five marketing stars of DWTS season 12.
• Kendra Wilkinson: Moms typically are the most marketable contestants on the show. (See Kristi Yamaguchi, Burke, Garth, etc.) Wilkinson's female gossip groupies watch this show religiously, and the male demographic won't mind her appearance, either. She is best positioned to capitalize on Twitter-focused programs (she is the only celebrity this season with more than 1 million Twitter followers). Type of deals? Just look at the advertisers on Perez Hilton, or scroll through OK! magazine.
• Sugar Ray Leonard: Not sure how long he will last on the dance floor, but he will increase his corporate speaking overnight (his go-to speech is titled "Power To Win"). Still, he should have waited and participated in season 14 (spring 2012), as it would have been just months in advance of the Olympics, and marketing interest in him would have been even greater.
• Petra Nemcova. Her personal story is unmatched on this show. Her upbringing, Sports Illustrated success and then the tsunami nightmare. She has built a credible global foundation (HappyHeartsFund.org), and she has the best chance for a new cause-marketing deal (potentially global) from a legitimate company.
• Ralph Macchio. A great casting decision by DWTS. Known for a 27-year-old movie, he has the best chance to be part of a branded video campaign. His self-deprecating humor will help him in the social-media world. Case in point: See Funny or Die. Expect a deal with a humor-driven brand reaching the male 21-35 demo.
• The wild card goes to polarizing women Kirstie Alley and Wendy Williams. Both are loved and, politely put, not liked by others. Alley's recent weight loss and reality-show ups and downs proves (at times) that she can be relevant. Williams's TV show has a specific female demographic that can cross over with the DWTS fan base. It will come down to their performance, and equally important, how they act on camera. I'll pick one: Wendy Williams.
—David Schwab is the managing director of Octagon First Call, a business that helps brands assess the value of celebrities for their upcoming marketing campaigns. Follow at www.celebrityacquisition.com and @david_schwab.