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11 December 2023

Why are advertisers and brands racing to be part of the sports podcast crowd? 

The power of podcast advertising is coming into its own thanks to engaged and trusting audiences.

To use an appropriate sporting analogy, when it comes to advertising, sports podcasts are punching well above their weight. 

A recent report from the IAB shows that US advertising spend within podcasting grew £90 million year on year. Whilst the genre growth in advertising revenue is not remarkable in its own right, since all podcasts are growing advertising revenue annually, what is exceptional is that the growth outstrips both its performance in terms of market share and audience.

In 2022, the US sports genre attracted 15% of advertising revenue, up from 11% the previous year and knocking “news” from that top spot for the first time since 2018. 

So, why are brands turning to sports audio as a way to reach audiences and market their brands?

Sports Audiences are Super-Engaged

There is a lot of synergy between sports fans and podcast audiences. Both groups share very similar characteristics: They are both loyal to their favourites, very engaged and extremely passionate. 

Spotify’s research in 2019 found that 81% of podcast listeners took action after hearing a host read advert during a podcast — anything from looking up a product online to connecting with a brand on social media to talking about a product with someone. 

That route to action is often driven by the connection felt between a listener and a podcast host. It’s easy to see how that sense of connection can be amplified when you add a favourite sports team into the mix. A passionate fan is likely to feel equally strongly about their favourite show discussing that sport and the hosts that lead the discussion. 

Advertisers can tap into that passion by aligning with the right shows and hosts. 

That’s the opportunity for brands to align with the host, for example, a Bill Simmons or a J.J .Redick, and then get a direct connection into those fans whether it be a sales lead/acquisition type of thing like getting more people to sign up for Seatgeek or to build up the brand

Sean Callanan (The Sports Geek podcast) speaking to Pitch

Sports podcasts are also great for consumer recall. Podcasting is great for building an emotional connection between the audience and the show and that connection is heightened with sports podcasts because the emotion elicited is often heightened. Anger, joy, despair, and stress are all common emotions associated with sports. Emotion is a powerful aid to memory (just think about your clearest memories, they will almost all be connected to moments of high emotion both positive and negative) and that can translate to associated brands as much as big in-game events or podcast content.

Podcasts Never Stop

Much of sports sponsorship and advertising focuses on the main event itself. Shirt sponsorship, digital signage and half-time ad breaks all rely on the sport itself but podcasting provides the opportunity to reach outside of those key moments. 

Be it the gap in season between events or the space in the close season, shows that focus on content such as news, gossip, and interviews of sports-format content can give advertisers a touch point aside from those big moments – and an ability to reach those fans throughout the whole year. 

As Kevin Straley, chief content officer at TuneIn points out, there is always a hunger for good sports content: 

I certainly think for the four major sports there are fans that want to get more content in that off-season, and sports talk radio is not the only place to get it,”  

Kevin Straley, Chief Content Officer – TuneIn

As Kevin suggests, sports radio does fill some of that voice. But where the broadcast medium of radio is forced to appeal to a large mass audience, the narrowcast nature of podcasting allows brands to find incredibly targeted, sometimes niche, pockets of fans. 

This leads to the third driving factor behind the sports podcasts boom…

Accountability and Targeting

As mentioned earlier, traditional sports advertising focuses on mass visibility (think shirt sponsors and digital hoarding) where the sheer size of an audience gives brands access to their core demographic. Even with these large audiences, there is a healthy amount of good faith involved that messages land with the correct audience and resulting action is taken. 

Podcasting can offer a level of targeting and accountability that other media sales find hard to match. 

The growth in dynamically inserted Host Read Adverts (HRA’s) over the last five years can give advertisers even more certainty that their campaigns are reaching the right ears. In 2019, 52% of HRA campaigns we’re “baked in” to podcasts (part of the source audio files) now that number is down to just 16% meaning that ad tech can not only ensure that certain listener demographics hear the advert (defined by variants of age, location, sex and more) but also track the impact those ads are having and if positive action is being taken by the audience.

We are discovering who our listeners are, where they are, and how they engage with brands. The anonymised, granular data that we can draw from is hugely powerful and only goes to add to the value that can be offered alongside audio’s already very exciting data on recall and engagement.

Andrea Day – Operations Director (Voiceworks)

These three triggers are just some of the qualities that have led to the current interest in sports podcasts from advertisers which means that for many official bodies and rights holders podcasting is now a realistic major revenue stream as well as being a fantastic PR tool and a way to engage new and existing fanbases. 

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