Unsigned bands will compete for the winning title in four categories in the contest, which is called "Cingular presents: YouTube Underground!" The categories are best song, best video, best live performance and most creative.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed with Wednesday's announcement, which played up the importance of the sponsorship from the nation's largest cell phone provider as a way for YouTube to demonstrate it can monetize its audience. Some analysts have questioned whether the risqué nature of some of YouTube's content will keep mainstream advertisers away. YouTube serves up more than 100 million videos per day.
Atlanta-based Cingular hopes the promotion will focus some attention on its mobile entertainment content, which is increasing in emphasis as a point of category differentiation. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel both announced expanded mobile entertainment offerings this month.
A 57-second video original on YouTube announces the contest. Done in hyper-speed with jump cuts and set to the music of up-and-coming independent band Bloc Party, the video boasts that entrants can win new gear and gain national exposure.
Other corporate participants in the contest are Gibson Guitars, which will provide prizes, and ABC's "Good Morning America," which will feature the finalists on its show in November.
"Good Morning America" has featured YouTube content for the past few weeks during segments in which popular YouTube videos air, then "GMA" anchors react to them.