When most people hear the word "K-pop," they automatically think of PSY, the hilarious "horse-dance" guy behind "Gangnam Style." But for years, the Korean pop industry has been quietly amassing 35 million fans around the world.
The explosive growth of this entertainment industry is etched into the history of Soompi, the first international K-pop community. Soompi launched in 1998, as a way for Korean-Americans to connect through a shared love for their native culture.
As K-pop started extending its influence into more and more countries, Soompi has also adopted a new mission: to become the voice of the international fans. Today, Soompi is trusted by 20 million readers in more than 180 countries.
However, despite the boom in K-pop's popularity around the globe, the industry remains monolithic: only a handful of K-pop stars today are non-Korean. That's why we created Rising Legends, a movement designed to address the imbalance in diversity of the industry's talents.
Together with JYP Entertainment, one of three major talent agencies in Korea, we took to our multilingual, multicultural audience to find the next K-pop star.
- Create a K-pop star search without barriers - allow anyone, anywhere to audition regardless of race or gender.
- Empower the Soompi audience by providing a platform to showcase their talents and to reach an audience of like-minded peers.
- Mobilize the greater K-pop community by granting them the power to vote for the next potential K-pop star.
- Merge mainstream pop with K-pop by involving music critics from major publications.
K-pop is a competitive industry – with over 200 groups debuting each year, the only way to get in front of international fans is through the use of grassroots branding and strategic partnerships.
Rising Legends was held in three rounds to ensure that our audience is fully immersed in the voting experience and the role they play in helping other like-minded fans achieve their dreams. Through a new video submission for each round, contestants are asked to prove again and again that they deserve the attention and support of our audience.
We chose to host Rising Legends on YouTube because it is where K-pop thrives – PSY's "Gangnam Style" literally broke the platform's view counter in 2014. One of K-pop's most popular girl groups, Girls' Generation, has also amassed over 2 billion views across their music videos since 2007. YouTube is credited with fueling the growth of K-pop fandom, helping us place a premium on the organic discoverability of Rising Legends content.
K-pop fans are used to mystery, to hype, and to fast-growing virality. With "Rising Legends," we successfully combined these factors with JYP Entertainment star power to create a complete, wholesome experience for our audience.
- Released mysterious images and videos to tease "Rising Legends" as a brand name and to draw fan interest prior to the official launch of the event.
- Required all fan submissions to be uploaded on YouTube using the keywords "JYP x Soompi Rising Legends" to brand organic discovery of the content and the campaign.
- Created custom thumbnails and bumpers for Rising Legends contestants in later rounds to complete the Rising Legends branded experience.
- Released "Rising Legends" shout out videos from top JYP Entertainment talent to encourage fans to participate (TWICE, one of the hottest K-pop girl groups, helped build expectations with: "I hope one day we can stand on the same stage together!")
- Utilized the hashtag #RisingLegends to track social conversations, #AreYouNext to pre-buzz the event.
- Encouraged social sharing of Rising Legends entries through signed JYP artist album giveaways.
- Partnered with JYP Entertainment because of their global mindset and multinational K-pop groups.
- Harnessed the organic power of YouTube influencers by inviting them to participate in Rising Legends.
- Recruited music critics from outlets like Buzzfeed, Billboard, Fuse, and more to bring more mainstream prestige to the event.
This is the first time that a fan-led search for the next K-pop star went global.
- We received nearly 5K video entries from Soompi users. To put that into perspective, season one of American Idol received 10K entries, despite being on a major television network.
- Audition hopefuls from 112 countries participated in the event, including countries as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, Israel, and Iraq. A majority of the entries came from North America (39.55%), with Asia (21.82%) and Europe (20.84%) rounding out the top participating regions.
- The audition videos totaled 5MM+ views on Youtube, with an estimated 6.7MM+ minutes watched.
- The Soompi audience cast over 1MM votes for their favorite contestants, contributing 2MM+ sessions to the Soompi site.
- 20+ international outlets from countries like Turkey, Australia, and more covered the story. South Korean press breaks also highlighted the global appeal of K-pop and applauded the diversity of Rising Legends participants.
- 326.1% year-over-year growth in user submissions when compared to the previous UGC campaigns.
- The campaign netted an estimated 20MM+ brand impressions across all platforms, including through influencers, press, social media, and talent.
For more information, visit the Rising Legends case study website here.
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