How to sponsor a podcast: best practices

How to sponsor a podcast: best practices

“How Did This Get Made”, “Dead Eyes”, “Popcast”, “Consider This”, “On the Media”: all over the world, the podcast market is growing and audience successes are multiplying. This is a boon for brands, which now have a unique affinity communication channel, where the podcast host can play a key role for advertisers.

In 2014, Mailchimp achieved a feat – placing a hilarious 19-second advertisement at the opening of Sarah Koenig’s dramatic podcast ‘Serial‘. At the time, the podcast producer approached the company, which specialises in newsletters. The format took off immediately, for one simple reason: a native podcast creates an intimate relationship with its audience. Here, the contrast between the content of the podcast and the ad hit the nail on the head. 

What makes podcasts so attractive to advertisers? 

  1. They are highly targeted 
  2. The public “subscribes” voluntarily 
  3. A relationship of trust with the host of the podcast, who has become an influencer  
Advertise on Podcast guide

Best practice 

Inserting an advertising message that resonates with the podcast makes sense to the audience. In the United States, research conducted by NPR in 2021 indicates that listeners have a more positive perception of brands that support the podcasts they produce. 

ositive perception of brands that support the podcasts

These insights help to get the right message across when choosing to sponsor a podcast. 

Your messages need to be perfectly integrated into the podcast 

To capitalise on the listener’s affinity with the podcast, the placement of the audio ad must be integrated in the programme in a non-invasive way. This is exactly the opposite of the traditional placement of radio commercials, in regular blocks.  

Possible placements are:  

  • Pre-roll:  ads that generally last 15 to 30 seconds and are broadcast before or after the introduction  
  • Mid-roll: ads that last 30 to 60 seconds and are inserted in the middle of an episode 
  • Post-roll: ads that last 15 to 30 seconds and are broadcast at the end. 

Which formats perform best?

For Heather Osgood, CEO of True Native Media, two locations should be favoured: the short format pre-roll at the beginning of the podcast and “the mid-roll, halfway to three quarters of the way through the podcast“. The listener, who is already engaged in listening, will then be unlikely to turn off the podcast. This is why the mid-roll format is also generally the most expensive. Post-roll is to be avoided. It is highly likely that “the listener will turn off the podcast episode before the ad at the end”, unless it brings added value and is expected: a coupon, solving a puzzle, the terms of a competition. 

Host-read: the presenter of the podcast can be your voice. 

This practice, inherited from analogue radio in the 1970s and ‘80s, consists of having the podcast host read out a commercial message. It is a bond of affinity that has never wavered. 

This format, which divides podcasters, sometimes for ethical reasons, emphasises the listener’s experience by aiming for native integration of the message within the content. Advertisers can then capitalise heavily on the aura and confidence of the person presenting the episode. This is especially true when a brand chooses to sponsor an independent podcast.  

For Lindsay Shelton, dynamic host-read ads are nothing less than the future of podcast advertising: “Not only can these immersive ads adapt to the listener’s podcast content, they can also detect listener preferences and other contextual information in real time to instantly create and deliver an ad tailored to each listener. This gives advertisers the ability to create ads that listeners actually enjoy, while combating ad fatigue.”  

All forms of advertising work as podcasts, but host-read ads clearly outperform.  According to an analysis conducted by SXM Media in September 2021, ads read by the podcast host far exceed traditional spoken advertisements in a podcast in terms of recognition: words read out by the host generated 66% more spontaneous recall than the advertiser’s messages. 59% were able to recall the brands mentioned unaided. 

The brand can create its own credible native podcast 

Trader Joe’s, a supermarket chain with a presence mainly in the western United States, offers a podcast that attracts several million fans every month. The secret of a brand capable of creating a successful podcast is the decision to offer relevant content in areas that are close to its heart – sustainable development, local agriculture, societal values – without ever mentioning the products on the shelves. 

For example, “The Long and Wine-ing Road to Trader Joe’s”: this episode is dedicated to Californian wine producers and was published in late 2021. The format is clear – talk about subjects where the brand is legitimate, while taking care to keep as far away as possible from classic marketing logic. 

Natural referencing is a major additional asset 

Since 2019, Google has been indexing podcasts in its search results, making them easier to read via its own tool, Google Podcast. When a brand sponsors a podcast, it can be present in the meta-descriptions and therefore appear in the search results as a sponsor of the podcast episode or series. This is a natural and largely unexploited bonus, which, in parallel with your audio ad, relies on meta-information (SEO) to be negotiated with the podcast producer. 

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