Sports and Podcasting: The Perfect Match

Podcast listeners and sports fans share two major attributes... Loyalty and passion. So why is it that many official sports brands and rights holders are yet to take advantage of what could be a very lucrative medium?

There have been two big winners during the Covid-19 lockdown.

  1. Takeaway delivery services.
  2. The makers of Blue Yeti Microphones.

The first has certainly been a beneficiary of lockdown in my household and whilst I've not personally purchased a "home podcasting" kit over the last few months I know plenty of people who have splurged a bit of cash on the most popular podcasting mic on the market.

If the phrase "everyone has a podcast" wasn't 100% true before Lockdown it is certainly edging that way now with seemingly everyone and his dog using their extra free-time to take the plunge into the podcasting pool.

Despite this explosion in creation AND consumption however many official sporting teams, clubs and competition have been slow to create their audio content.

So why is this the case?

Take the Premier League, for example, one of the worlds richest and most popular sporting competitions. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of teams that have launched their own official podcast product.

Instead, clubs seem content to let fan channels' dominate the space, some of which who have built huge and valuable audiences with their own engaging and emotive audio.

This wouldn't be the first time that official rights holders have been slow to the punch with a new media channel. A similar thing happened in the video space (mainly YouTube) with clubs/teams ignoring growing demand and allowing fan-channels to gain a real foothold before finally taking notice. Only when they witnessed the large scale success of the "fan channel" content did they start to explore the space themselves - doing so already on the back foot (a case in point here was the conflict of interest that grew between Arsenal vs Arsenal Fan TV).

Audio is currently in a similar place to video a few years back. The audio and podcasting space is dominated by fan-made and news outlet-created content with very little coming directly from rights holders themselves.

One way to look at this is that sports brands entering the market now have missed the boat and may as well not bother. Another (more sensible) way to put it would be that fan-channel and independent productions have established a market which can now be exploited by official content creators.

One of the things that traditionally deter UK Sports brands investing in the space is the speed of growth.

Podcasting is a slow burn. It can take time to build an audience. Even for Manchester United, who launched their official podcast in October 2019, growth has been slow (from what we can tell - podcast listener reporting is notoriously clandestine). Given the size of the club and the size of the household names featured on the podcast, this could be seen as disappointing. That would, however, miss the true value of a podcast listener.

Podcasting allows for a much more relaxed, personal and in-depth content than with video. It is a medium that creates far greater emotional engagement with its audience - and that has huge value. Audio creates a connection. What you then do (as a creator) with that connection is up to you.

One such benefit (as detailed in Podcast One's "Super-Listener" research) is that podcast listeners look on advertising within a podcast in a far more favourable light than in other mediums such as video with the additional benefit of greater advert recall too.

Whilst audio may not have the same numbers that it's more established cousin video has. Those who listen, listen for longer and have a more valuable engagement. In other words: one view on a video can’t be measured in the same way as one listen to a podcast.

Where does audio fit within your content strategy?

Where exactly audio fits in with your content strategy really depends on your brand goals.

Do you want to attract new fans? Do you want to sell more products? Do you want to create a new revenue stream? All those are possible and identifying your number one aim will help shape your precise approach to audio and how it fits with your larger content strategy.

For me, it all comes down to one key element; fan-engagement. By deepening the relationship between brand and fan you open up avenues to all the above goals.

Fans will always naturally focus on the "tent pole" event. The matchday. But now, more than ever, there is a never-ending desire for a content stream through the week.

The action needn't end as the team leave the pitch and the fan leaves the stadium or turns off the TV. Providing fans with virtual access to the changing rooms, press conferences, training ground and key athletes helps generate specific touchpoints through the week and keeps your consumer connected to your product even in the spaces between tentpoles!

You may feel you are already doing this with your video/social content but audio can add another easy-to-access moment. It's a medium than can be consumed whilst doing other things with new technologies making it even easier to find on-demand content on the go and in places inaccessible to video (such as in the car).

The good news is that audio is less expensive and easier to create than video making. The even better news is that if you ARE currently creating great content via video or social channels then some of the work may already be done. It could well be that the content required to create your own podcast presence already exists in other formats meaning you can reach a whole new audience with relatively little effort or resource (with the right knowledge and skills to repurpose that content of course).

We have already seen some big developments in sports audio in 2020: Recently NBA Star JJ Redick has launched his own podcast production company. Earlier this year Spotify spent $200 purchasing The Ringer and just a few months ago the WWE doubled its investment in podcast content - it's a medium that is one going one way!

The signs are all there that this is an area heading for a boom in both audience numbers and advertising revenues and by creating your own engaged, passionate and loyal audience now you have a real prize to offer potential commercial partners and marketeers.