Dancing With the (Sports) Stars

(NOTE: This was written prior to the airing of Monday evening’s “Dancing With the Stars” and therefore contains NO spoilers)

We all know Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco can make some serious moves on the football field. Tonight we’ll find out what he can do on the dance floor when he and partner Cheryl Burke perform the Cha Cha and Viennese Waltz on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’

He’s not the first athlete to trade in cleats for dancing shoes… five of the last seven DWTS winners are recognizable for their athletic achievements, and three more have been runners-up. Winners include the first athlete to take the crown, Emmitt Smith (NFL, season 3), followed in quick succession by Apolo Anton Ohno (Speedskating, season 4), Helio Castroneves (IndyCar, season 5), Kristi Yamaguchi (Figure skating, season 6), and Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics, season 8).

Does that mean Ochocinco has a leg up on the other 10 competitors? If his post-touchdown celebrations are any indication, he can definitely learn new steps on a week-to-week basis. He can improvise when needed, and has a sense of humor. Evan Lysacek, the gold-medal winning Olympic figure skater, may be Ochocinco’s toughest competition. He’s certainly got the dance background and the sense of balance. Let’s see how he does when he has to share the spotlight.

Back to Ochocinco: what remains to be seen is whether he’ll be able to keep his cool when he receives criticism from the judges and what this experience will mean to his personal brand. Ochocinco has over 800,000 twitter followers, and seems to be one of the most  transparent athletes out there when it comes to his use of social media (see also: Shaq, The Real).

So for a man that has spent so much time tweeting, live-streaming and updating his website (the OchoCinco News Network, or OCNN), tonight’s episode will give him a far larger audience than he ever sees on Sundays. His actions and reactions can go a long way towards earning him new fans. I doubt he could turn fans off unless he does something really over the top. Those that follow him regularly know that he pulls no punches (for example: telling Tiger Woods jokes) and is unashamedly honest about who he is.

The draw for someone who is a public figure, as athletes are, is the opportunity to both build their brand and stay ‘relevant’ in the public eye. This is a great complement to what Ochocinco is already doing with his online endeavors. He has been successful at gaining a large Twitter following and through DWTS will have the opportunity to garner new fans who may not have already found him online. Since he has merchandise available on his web site, his participation may end up making him money from the sale of such t-shirts as the ‘Girl/Boy You Trippin’ line. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way to slip in a little self-promotion at some point. This season, we’ll find out if dancing is one of his hidden talents.

Other reality shows that have featured athletes:
‘Shaq vs.’ – Enough said
‘Pros vs. Joes’ – Michael Irvin, Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco, Kordell Stewart, etc. show those every day wannabe pro athletes what its really like out there on the field.
‘The Surreal Life 5’ – Jose Canseco came out as one of the most level-headed people in the house on this particular season
‘Age of Love’ – Mark Philippoussis (tennis) attempts to find love, ‘The Bachelor’-style

3 thoughts on “Dancing With the (Sports) Stars

  • March 23, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Other sports/reality crossover: Jesse Palmer was a contestant on The Bachelor. He’s a former quarterback in college (Florida), the NFL (NY Giants), and the CFL (Montreal Alouettes), and he’s currently an ESPN college football commentator.

  • Pingback: Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson Has Come a Long Way «

  • March 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I completely agree with the blog to maximize on an individual level each athlete must use different forms of media to achieve full coverage. The perfect example could be not an athlete but a sports reporter Erin
    Andrews. It will be very interesting to see how she transforms from sideline reporter to a more national name possibly into a major network newscaster.

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