Celebrities Flocking to CES

The world’s greatest gadget show may have fewer people than last year (131,000 compared to 140,000 in 2008, according to some reports), but CES2009 will feature such illustrious names as Diana Ross, Akon and Brian Williams—and even Bill Walton and will.i.am.

The big show starts in Las Vegas Thursday. But even before the floor opens, celebs will add to the glitter.

Wednesday (Jan. 7), the Billboard Digital Music Live! Conference Session will feature Soulja Boy Tell’Em, a fast-rising star who has skillfully used digital-era tactics—including YouTube and ringtones—to make his name. He’ll be on hand with his manager and producer to discuss his strategies, at 10:55 a.m.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, rapper Akon and Rio Caraeff, executive vice president of Universal Music Group's eLabs, will discuss today’s intersection of art and commerce.

NBC Universal is once again the official broadcast partner of the International CES and will broadcast live from the show floor, bringing along newsman Williams and CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.

Sony Pictures Television will film daily episodes—11 in all—of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” on a specially built set on the CES show floor, while “Oprah” regular Dr. Oz will promote his new show.

Sharp, the official HDTV maker of Major League Baseball, will bring heavy hitters Prince Fielder (Brewers) and David “Big Papi” Ortiz (Red Sox) Thursday, along with Mets’ pitcher John Maine. Friday, Sharp will bring in infielders Ryan Theriot (Cubs) and Hanley Ramirez (Marlins) along with Yankees’ pitcher Joba Chamberlain and slugging outfielder Matt Holiday (Athletics).

If big-time baseball players aren’t enough, appliance maker Haier America will have NBA Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler, Robert Parish and Bill Walton on hand for all three days of the show.

Indy 500 driver Sarah Fisher will be in the SimCraft booth, Akon will promote SanDisk, and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am, nominated for a Global Media Award, will be at the Awards Program starting at 7 p.m. at the Venetian.

The most recognizable name of all will come Friday, when Diana Ross will headline an invitation-only concert at the Paris Hotel, sponsored by Monster Cable.