What Marketers Need to Know About Sponsoring Podcasts

Dear Marketers, 

As a CMO, SVP, or VP of Marketing, your job is not easy. 

Your CEO expects growth and trust, but a HBR article shows that 80% of CEOs say they are either unimpressed with or don’t trust their CMOs. On top of that, the average tenure of CMOs is 18-20 months. Yikes. 

The cost to acquire customers is rising, and the customers you’re acquiring through social media advertising don’t have a lifetime value to justify the spend… 

Old-school media like print and television are overpriced compared to social media sponsorships. The hard part is, social media networks are like casinos. Eventually, the house always wins. What do you do?

Luckily, there is one area with incredible ROI at a reasonable price – custom podcast sponsorships. At Mission.org, that is what we do. 

Our team creates custom podcasts and sponsorships for enterprises that drive results, leads, and ROI.

Two of our podcasts were recently selected by Apple as “Best of 2018” and companies like Salesforce trust us to produce results. We started working with Salesforce last year, and now we work with five different business units inside the company. Other technology companies like Twilio and Katerra work with us to sponsor custom podcasts around their industries that are Account Based Marketing machines, which help align their sales and marketing teams and drive leads.   

Whether it’s driving 10M+ logo impressions or closing over seven figures of signed contracts, we’ve done it by creating custom podcasts and sponsorships.  

If you’re a marketer who is looking to create a potentially career-defining campaign, our mascot, Toasty (he’s a Goldendoodle), would love to hear from you

We’re always working on developing original podcasts in both fiction and non-fiction form with A-list actors. You can help bring these to life while simultaneously reaching millions of the smartest people in the world. 

But before you dive in, we’ve created an executive report for you on the state of podcasting. In it, you will find the pros and cons of podcasting along with a checklist that will help empower your marketing team on your journey to securing the perfect podcast sponsorship. Enjoy! 

The State of Podcasting

Podcasting is at the ideal phase in its growth curve for marketers. In the U.S., 73 million people listen to podcasts at least once a month, meaning the addressable market is large enough to have a big impact. At the same time, that number only represents 26% of the total U.S. market, meaning there is plenty of room for growth. 

Image Credit, Edison Research

Outside the US, the market is either in a similar place or lagging even further behind, with one notable exception: China.

And just how big is the fully mature Chinese podcast market? About $7 billion.

How big is the U.S. podcast market? About $350 million. 

Image Credit, IAB

Assuming that the U.S. will eventually catch up to China in this regard (a pretty fair assumption since the U.S. radio market is $17B), that means podcasting is going to grow at least 20x in the near- to mid-term future.

This presents a unique opportunity for the savvy CMO. The majority of podcasts are run by one-off enthusiasts and sole proprietors of podcasts, many of whom are not committed to running their podcast for the long run. 

Meanwhile, brands like GE, with GE Podcast Theater, quickly grow and dominate their niche. If you sponsor your own branded podcast, you can still be an early mover in a market that disproportionately rewards consistent, committed action. 

Additionally, podcast listeners fall into a unique demographic category that is otherwise difficult to reach. Podcast listeners are more likely than the average person to be highly educated, earn a high household income, and be a professional. They also tend to be younger, meaning that listeners have a longer potential lifetime value for advertisers.

Image Credit, Edison Research

Image Credit, Edison Research 

Not only that, but podcast advertising has been shown to be highly effective. Whereas banner ads are mostly tuned out and television commercials are often muted or skipped, podcast listeners tend to listen to the advertisements. Even better, they tend to actually respond to what they are hearing.

Image credit: Marketing Charts

Image Credit, Forbes

Podcasters like Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan can make or break a brand. Joe Rogan’s show has an entire website dedicated to linking to books mentioned in the podcast and Amazon regularly sells out of products after they’re mentioned on The Tim Ferriss Show.

How much will it cost you to get a podcast advertisement? For existing podcasts, you’re looking at a CPM (Cost Per Mille, or in other words, cost for every one thousand downloads) of anywhere from $25–100 for a slot on a top 50 podcast with high conversion rates. There are some pros and cons of sponsoring an existing podcast.

Pros:

  • Requires less setup work and time on your part.
  • Comes with a guaranteed, existing audience.
  • Should give you baseline expectations for conversion rates on successful shows.

Cons:

  • Often pricey. Could be more cost-effective to launch your own professionally produced podcast. A premium show can cost over $1,000,000 just for a few minutes of airtime.
  • You don’t get to control what it is mentioned. The episode you sponsor could be totally unrelated to your brand, or even contain objectionable content.
  • Availability. Successful podcasts are going to have a waitlist of other sponsors knocking down the doors to get in.

You could “sponsor” your own show…

That brings up another, newer option: sponsoring your own show. In this case, you don’t approach an existing podcaster, pay for a few episodes, and hope that their audience makes sense for your brand. Instead, you partner with a creative studio to produce a full-length podcast that is put out in partnership with your company.

This is what GE has successfully done with GE Podcast Theater’s The Message, and Life After. Venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund have each put out their own internally-produced podcasts featuring different technology trends.

A few years ago, this would have been considerably more difficult and expensive than just sponsoring an existing podcast, but the costs of hosting and launching a podcast have dropped dramatically as recording and streaming technologies have improved. 

There are strategies you can leverage to make your podcast one of the best-performing on the internet in its niche, if you keep up with it. Just like sponsoring an existing podcast, there are pros and cons to sponsoring your own show.

Pros:

  • You control the brand and the style. You can give your show a narrative style or make it a series of interviews with interesting people.
  • You control the cycle of release for the show. Some shows release on “seasons” all at once and others release on their own regular cycle.
  • You control the audience. You may have to build your own listenership, but you have better control over the types of people who will listen to the show and you can bring in your own audience from elsewhere.
  • Cost. If done properly, this can produce more evergreen content than any number of sponsorships on other shows.

Cons:

  • You will have to build your own audience.
  • Requires upfront time investment. The best podcasts launch with a number of episodes already prepared.

As podcasts become more popular, narrative-style branded content is edging out the interviewer-interviewee style popular during the original rise of podcasting. Although the interview format is still most common, storytelling podcasts present a better opportunity to bring in listeners and keep them entertained.

If you’re going to go ahead and sponsor your own custom podcast, ensure the creative studio you work with follows this checklist to make sure you knock it out of the park.

Checklist for Sponsoring a Custom Podcast

  • Identify your audience. Don’t try to go for “everybody.” Choose a demographic, choose an end-listener, and be clear about who the podcast is for.
  • Seek inspiration. Find a few podcasts that are already successful and who have demographics like those you would like to work with.
  • Choose a theme. Don’t go for a scattershot approach. If you want to cover multiple topics in your show, either cluster them under one obvious umbrella or consider using a “season” format.
  • Set a schedule. Listeners value consistency and knowing when they will be able to listen to the podcast. Make your release schedule clear. Do not release episodes on an irregular schedule. Either release all at once or set a schedule, usually daily, weekly, or bi-weekly. After you know the frequency, set the schedule for which day and time you will release them. Nearly half of all podcast listeners listen during or on the way to work, so releasing before you get too deep into the workday or workweek is a must.
  • Record at least 10 episodes before launching. Having a catalog demonstrates that you are committed to sustaining your podcast long-term. Record at least 10 episodes early and upload at least half of those before you launch so that listeners have a backlog to listen to.
  • Pre-promote your podcast to your existing audience. If you already have a social media following or email list, promote your podcast to them before you launch to get subscribers.
  • Create a podcast-specific landing page. This is important. You can track engagement with your podcast and ROI more easily if you have a specific page to which listeners can be directed while listening to the show. It can be as simple as yourcompanyname.com/podcast.
  • Once you launch, encourage reviews. You can run a promotion with your audience to encourage reviews. The more reviews you get, the more legitimate the podcast looks.

Podcasts provide clear, marketable analytics for CMOs and their teams to rally the support and resources they need from the company. This medium is still young, so the right storytelling show marketed to the right people can top the charts and blow other advertising resources out of the water. If you are looking for a high upside with low cost, no other medium can match podcasting.

This report is brought to you by our team at Mission.org

To learn more about why companies like Salesforce trust us to produce results, connect with our mascot here.

P.S. Our mascot is a Goldendoodle named Toasty. 🙂 See below!

If you’d like to get in touch with us you can email or follow us on the socials at: @ChadGrills, @StephPostles, and @IanFaison. 

We also host the #1 podcast for marketing executives, Marketing Trends. If you’re a CMO, SVP, or VP of Marketing and want to be interviewed, we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to our producer to schedule.

And as always, to learn more about the original podcasts we’re working on (both fiction and non-fiction!) that have open sponsorship opportunities, please connect with our team here.

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