Youth Report: Ubisoft shifts its focus to fans on campus

The videogame maker steps away from celebrity endorsers to tap university students to become ambassadors for Just Dance, all while attempting to set a world record.

It’s no wonder Ubisoft has invested sponsorship dollars on its Just Dance title for so many years (taking it on tour with Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, as well as making appearances at the MuchMusic Video Awards). The game is its most popular, having sold more than 1.4 million units in Canada since its 2009 launch.

Touring with pop stars provides Ubisoft the opportunity to have its product on-site for youth to demo at shows. Its partnership with Bieber also allowed the brand to create original content, such as when it documented impromptu visits from the singer at focus group sessions and posted it online (so far, the video has received over 6.6 million views).

And while sponsorships have proven effective for the game developer, Ubisoft decided it was time to test a more personal approach, launching a program that reaches out to university students (as opposed to its typical tween target) and having them (instead of celebrities) become advocates for the brand.

The “Crush Exam Stress and Just Dance” program, created by Redwood Strategic and Edelman, launched mid-March with a microsite that invites dance crews from campuses across Canada to enter for the chance to take part in a one-day dance party (and hopefully set a world record along the way) on  April 6. The program, which will see 20 crews whittled down to eight final groups, is timed to align with the students’ exams to help relieve them of the stresses of studying, says Lucile Bousquet, marketing and communications director at Ubisoft.

“When we found out that university students use this game to help de-stress, we wanted to extend this experience,” she says of the reasons for shifting the brand’s communications to speak to university students for the first time. “This is almost a test for us to see how we can extend this to a younger audience. If we see a success, [this is] something that we would like to do [again].”

Participants can register their school dance crew on the microsite and, as an ambassador, build a case for why they should be chosen to participate in the Just Dance party by mobilizing their school community to post images and videos that show off their moves. The eight chosen crews can win prizes from Samsung, Microsoft and Ubisoft, as well as sponsorship money to help them build awareness of the event.

By asking avid fans of the game to become brand ambassadors, Ubisoft gains more credibility than if it was to push its own message out to the students, Bousquet says.

“[Youth] want to be involved. Once you give them all the tools, they become the content creator. They are looking to have a voice, they want to have an impact on what [a brand] does, be a part of something and share their expectations,” she adds.

I think this contest is properly done. [It has] cool prizes, [is] very interactive, hands-on and it gets people pumped and motivated. The terms and idea of the contest matches the marketed product very well.
- Iyngaran, 19

It would be nice to have more than eight schools participating, as there’s a whole lot of talent out there that the world would love to see.
– Helen, 18