By David Schwab, Octagon First Call
Season 18 of Dancing With the Stars kicks off Monday night with some big changes—most notably, Erin Andrews is the new co-host, replacing Brooke Burke. Like Burke, Andrews is a past competitor—she finished third on Season 10. Andrews has a strong (mostly male) fan base from her days on ESPN and current gig with Fox Sports, so this new role should make her more of a household name with women. She is already busy in the endorsement space, with current and past deals including Reebok, TruBiotics, Diet Mountain Dew and Ticketmaster. It's also worth noting that Burke is still incredibly relevant and popular with brands, especially with her ModernMom.com platform reaching women 25-54.
Here's a look at our marketing predictions for the new cast:
Drew Carey: Carey has been a TV mainstay for two decades, most recently as the host of The Price Is Right. His endearing humor and nice-guy image will garner him much fanfare and show success. Carey's awareness level among adults 25-54 is twice as much as the average celebrity comedic personality, and DWTS will only increase that. His inspiring 80-pound weight loss over the last few years was a big media draw and gives Carey added relevance in the health and wellness space. As DWTS draws back the curtain on Carey's off-screen life and interests, look for opportunities with brands and organizations in the photography (he is an amateur photographer), health/nutrition and literacy (he is a strong advocate for libraries) spaces.
Candace Cameron Bure: Bure played DJ on the ABC show Full House and has made several appearances in television and film since the show ended in 1995. A devout Christian and mother of three, she has written two books about her approach to juggling motherhood; her most recent sparked a minor controversy in regards to her family structure. Still, she will be of interest to wholesome, family-targeted programs, and there are always plenty of mom-driven PR campaigns popping up. Working in her favor is the fanfare surrounding Full House after John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier reunited for an Oikos Super Bowl commercial. It would be fun to see them and other Full House castmates show up to cheer her on and further fuel cast-reunion buzz.
Danica McKellar: Another child TV star turned nostalgia icon, McKellar is still best known for her role as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, but she has also authored four books on mathematics primarily targeted at adolescent readers (check out her "Pi Day" tweet from last Friday). A television veteran with a mass-appealing platform of youth empowerment and education, McKellar has all the makings of a fan favorite. Prime for the brand space, she is obviously great for education/academic-focused brands (LeapFrog, TI, Teach for America, etc.) or brands looking to activate with an intellectual spin (e.g., Gillette's "How Does Superman Shave?" campaign). Beauty, health and apparel brands should also watch closely as Danica is attractive, too.
NeNe Leakes: Leakes transitioned from The Real Housewives of Atlanta to a starring role in the short-lived NBC sitcom The New Normal and a continued recurring role on Fox's Glee. Her vibrant personality is sure to be a hit with viewers and will deliver some entertaining postperformance banter with the judges. She has participated in past marketing partnerships with Pretzelmaker and Sears. She made a smart choice to join DWTS, which could further incite interest from brands looking to activate campaigns that need a "larger than life" personality. More of a bump in marketing, not a mainstay.
Cody Simpson: At just 17 years old, Simpson is the youngest competitor this season. The Australian pop star is one of two cast members DWTS is likely banking on to bring in younger viewers this season. Unlike past teen stars on the show who hadn't resonated for brands yet, Simpson has already partnered with Bing, Jay Jays clothing and Teen Cancer America. His burgeoning music career sets him apart from past teen competitors who were associated only with Disney shows. Categories to consider would be soda, tech and shoe/accessory lines. Solid fan base of almost 6.5 million Twitter fans.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White: We anticipated a surge in Davis and White's marketability following their Winter Olympics gold medal performance and even mentioned that competing slots on DWTS would be most advantageous for them. They are not completely new to the DWTS family, as pro Derek Hough choreographed their Olympic routine. Davis and White were prominently featured in Kellogg's, Visa and P&G TV ads around Sochi, and those brands should take advantage of this extended spotlight. I don't see many new marketing deals but definitely an increase of performance fees at skating shows around the country.
Amy Purdy: As a Paralympian (bronze medalist, snowboarding), Purdy is the best human-interest story in the field. She is a double amputee and also underwent a kidney transplant from her father at 21 years old. Her magnetic personality, undeniable athleticism and inspiring story have already attracted brands including Toyota, Kellogg's and Runway. An occasional actress, she's also comfortable playing to a camera and being on the national stage. DWTS will introduce her to a whole new wave of opportunities and a definite future in motivational corporate and public speaking.
James Maslow: Maslow, 23, is the latest in a long tradition of young stars competing on DWTS (see Simpson above). As Disney is the parent company of DWTS network ABC, most young competitors have come from Disney Channel properties, but Maslow launched his career on competing network Nickelodeon's hit show/boy band Big Time Rush. A run on DWTS could help propel him as a solo musician (the show ended last year, and the future of the band is still TBD).
Diana Nyad: After years of preparations and four failed attempts, Nyad in 2013 became the first person to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. Her endurance and no-quit attitude are obvious and should mitigate her advanced age (64) in terms of the competition. She is already an established motivational speaker, and the DWTS exposure will introduce her to further corporate speaking opportunities as brand execs tune in and track the cast throughout the season. However, she probably won't draw the same interest for marketing deals that her fellow competitors will.
Billy Dee Williams: At 76, Williams is the oldest competitor in this season's cast. He is rumored to be returning for the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, which could make this DWTS stint the beginning of a late-career renaissance for him. During his heyday, Williams was most famously the spokesperson for Colt 45 malt liquor, but we see few marketing opportunities for him post-DWTS. He probably won't be the one to do the typical PR runaround in New York or L.A., but his built-in sci-fi fan base and likable persona could potentially still be leveraged in digital content and marketing activations at sci-fi focused events (e.g., Comic-Con).
Sean Avery: Avery is a former NHL-er who spent the prime of his career with the New York Rangers and in the penalty box. He built a reputation as a bad boy during his hockey career, so expect him to carry that mantle throughout the DWTS season. Following his retirement from hockey, Avery modeled in campaigns for 7 for All Mankind (directed by James Franco) and Hickey Freeman. While Avery has tried to showcase the dynamics of his personality over the years, DWTS may not help his cause as he will be fighting an uphill battle to shine through a mix of personalities who are better known, have stronger and more positive backstories and/or have stronger marketability. He is the first hockey player to compete on DWTS, but that won't mean much to brands.
David Schwab is managing director of Octagon First Call, experts in aligning celebrities with brands to deliver a quantifiable return on objectives. Follow him at @david_schwab.