How to Sponsor a Podcast: Advertising Costs & Best Practices

Each year, when the Infinite Dial Report is released, you can pretty much guarantee one thing, and that’s the continued growth of podcasting. 2023 was no different, with listening up to 64%, from 51% five years prior. Podcasting isn’t purely a growing medium, either. It’s one that commands the most attention, authority, and trust. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that many businesses are now wondering how to sponsor a podcast. If there’s a better way to spend your advertising budget, I’m yet to see it.  

But, many marketers and advertising departments are still unclear on how to go about sponsoring podcasts. It doesn’t seem quite as straightforward as approaching a magazine, newspaper, or radio station. There are over four million podcasts out there. So where do you even start?

The good news is that you’ve landed on the perfect post to have these questions answered. Here, we’ll also give you the tips and advice needed to get set up and on your way. You’ll be broadcasting your message to every set of earbuds from the London Underground to the Tokaido Shinkansen in no time. So let’s get to it.

By the way – if you’re a PODCASTER looking to monetise through running ads, check out our Ultimate Guide to Podcast Sponsorship

What’s Different About Podcast Advertising? Why Team Up With a Podcaster?

Podcasts can be highly targeted. In fact, most are.

You’ll find podcasts on the most niche subjects, from chameleon breeding to growing bonsai trees.

A podcast’s core audience will subscribe or follow the show, binge its back catalogue, and have often listened to every single word the host has ever said.

A trade magazine, by contrast, might be ultra-niche, but many readers will still skim certain sections that are obviously adverts.

In audio, that’s much less likely.

A podcast’s core audience knows the host well. They like them, they trust them, and they turn up every episode to hear from them.

But that alone isn’t necessarily enough for an advert to work.

What Makes an Effective Podcast Advert?

When thinking about how to sponsor a podcast, you might imagine your own ad being very similar to the kind you’ve heard on the radio. Podcasts and radio are both audio formats, after all.

However, though ‘radio-style’ ads are an option, they’re far from optimal.

To fully benefit from the host’s relationship with their audience, a host-read message is a lot more likely to cause listeners to take action. A big part of that is not making listeners feel like they’ve been interrupted when enjoying their favourite show.

Interruption Vs In-Content Marketing

If you want to know how to sponsor a podcast effectively, then the starting point is to opt for host-read ads,

Host-read endorsements – if done well – aren’t breaks in the show’s content. They’re a part of it.

Of course, a key factor here is that the advertiser/product and the show topic/ethos fit each other well. The podcast host must fully endorse what they’re selling to their audience. Can you imagine a vegan podcaster running hamburger ads?

If the host uses your product or service, they can build a story around it. They can tell their audience why they started using it, the benefits they received from it, and why they recommend it.

That’s much better than a random voice-over, jumping in to hurl a slew of details at the listener and offering little more than an annoying interruption.

How to Sponsor a Podcast: Do Download Numbers Matter?

With newspaper, TV, and radio advertising, you’ll hear figures in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Sometimes even millions.

Many potential podcast advertisers write off the medium because listener figures are often in the hundreds or low thousands.

Deeper Dive: What’s a Good Number of Downloads for a Podcast?

Again, though, this comes down to engagement rather than the sheer volume of numbers.

What percentage of the 40,000 local radio listeners care about the content in your average advert? What percentage of this number is that ad even relevant to?

But if you have a podcast with 200 hardcore listeners on (for example) the subject of keeping pet rats, and the host is talking about a particular rat food they use for their pets, how many of the audience will be interested to find out why?

Numbers Vs Engagement

We need to get past the idea that a bigger audience is always better. It’s not a case of how many, it’s a case of who.

If you’re a wedding planner, would you rather reach 50k people who aren’t getting married, or 50 who are?

Measuring Downloads

What does it actually mean to say a podcast gets a certain amount of downloads?

The easiest way to do this is on a downloads-per-episode basis, and in the period of 30 days following that episode’s release.

So if I tell you that my podcast gets 2000 downloads, that means after I release a new episode, it’ll be downloaded around 2000 times within the first month.

My all-time number of downloads (counting every episode ever released) might be 500,000, and I might be getting 300 total downloads per day. But these don’t mean much to you if you’re paying to sponsor the next 4 episodes.

What is a Download?

In the past, media hosts (the platforms we use to upload episodes to) would generally clock up a download each time there was a request for a file (a “file” being an episode of the show).

These days, podcast analytics are a bit more robust and hosting providers are able to filter out duplicate downloads from users with multiple devices, or, from web crawlers and bots.

But once a “proper” download is registered, there’s still no guarantee that the listener has actually listened to all or even any of the episodes.

So… Are Download Numbers Unreliable?

So, couldn’t a particularly dishonest podcaster find multiple ways to vastly inflate their numbers?

Unfortunately, there are rare occasions of this happening, yes. But, the overwhelming majority of podcasters are honest, passionate, and hard-working people. They put enough of themselves into their podcast, that they value their integrity and their audience above all else.

If someone wants to generate income by scamming folks, I’m sure there are many quicker and easier options than running a crooked podcast.

But, to put your mind at rest, I’d advise putting more emphasis on engagement metrics than download numbers. For example, listen time is a metric that’s gaining popularity in the podcast sponsorship space.

We’ll talk about tracking results and engagement shortly. But here’s a final thought on the reliability of download metrics.

How many of your local radio station’s “40,000 listeners” are just jumping in the car for 5 minutes here and there?

How many of your local newspaper’s “3000 readers” are reading every word or every advert on a page full of adverts?

I’m not saying that advertising on traditional mediums doesn’t work. My point is simply that no system is perfect, and that we need to look beyond the numbers when evaluating any return on an advertising investment.

Our podcast industry statistics report features a tonne of data from the likes of Edison Research, Ofcom, and the top podcast hosting platforms. There, you’ll find numbers and stats on everything from listening time and habits to demographics and engagement.

How Long Would I Need to Commit to a Podcast Sponsorship Deal?

If you decide to go ahead and sponsor a podcast, you should agree with the host on how long it’ll run for.

You might agree to try an initial four episodes, then review your arrangement before deciding on doing more.

And although you might only pay for four episodes, these episodes generally don’t vanish once they’re published. They can still be downloaded 10 years from now, as new listeners discover the podcast and binge its back catalogue.

That’s a long time since your newspaper ad ended up as a chip shop wrapper or your local radio ad slot finished!

How Much Does it Cost to Sponsor a Podcast? CPM & Industry Rates

Again, if you’re working directly with a podcaster, and not through any middleman, then it’s simply a case of agreeing on a price that works for both.

Some podcasters with big download numbers are happy with the classic CPM (cost per mille) model. That often translates to an ad slot cost of around $20 to $25 per 1000 downloads (per episode after 30 days of its release).

However, many podcasters will be keen to hammer out an agreement that looks beyond simple numbers. Engagement can be far more important, as we’ve covered already.

I gave the example of the pet rat podcaster with a core audience of 200 highly engaged listeners.

If you’re a pet supply company creating products for small animals, this would be a perfect opportunity to get in front of those listeners and build a relationship with them.

It’s extremely unlikely that’s going to happen for $5 per episode though – it’s just not worthwhile for the podcaster, and doesn’t reflect the highly targetted nature of that audience. A much more realistic figure might be $30 to $50 per episode.

But as I’ve said, this is dependent on so many different factors, and it’s entirely up to the business and the podcaster to come to an agreement.

There’s absolutely no one-size-fits-all answer here.

Another Pricing Factor

The positioning of your advert in a podcast episode can also be a factor in the pricing.

There are three categories of ad positioning in podcasting.

Pre-rolls – a 15 second ad at the start of the show, usually before the main topic of the episode has begun.

Mid-rolls – a 1-minute ad in the middle of the show or the middle of the main topic discussion.

Post-rolls – a short ad at the end of the show, usually after the main topic has wrapped up.

As you’ll have guessed, a mid-roll ad is generally the most sought-after spot, and, thus tends to be the most expensive.

And with the risk of many listeners switching off after the main topic of an episode, the post-roll spot is the least appealing.

These are trends rather than rules, though. There’s an argument that a show’s most elite and fanatical listeners are the ones who always make it right to the end. So a post-roll ad campaign over multiple episodes could work well, and at a much lower cost!

How to Advertise on Podcasts: Tracking Results

Just as you don’t want to waste your money, a good podcast host won’t want to waste their listener’s time either.

With that in mind, there are a few ways you and the host can monitor how effective podcast sponsors are for both parties.

Tracking clicks – You can use tools like PrettyLinks to create memorable URLs to be read out on the show. For example, This way, you get an idea of how many listeners are checking you out.

Dedicated website section traffic – You can create a specific page or section of your site tailored to listeners of the podcast. If you sell a wide range of products, you could get the podcaster to create a list of their favourites. See the Model Health Show and Four Sigmatic example below.

“How did you hear about us?” survey – This could be a quick pop-up on your website or a question during checkout. It can help you learn how much traffic and business is coming via the podcast.

Coupon codes – You can provide listeners with a coupon code that gives them a % discount at checkout. If you go down this route you may offer the option to pay a lower per-episode fee to the podcaster that’s incentivised with commission from these sales.

Podcast Sponsorship Examples

You’ll find one of my own ad-reads on this Tabletop Miniature Hobby Podcast episode, from 00:45 to 02:30. Here, my sponsor was one of my favourite miniature companies. I was able to tell the listener about some of the figures I’d bought in the past, how I planned to use them, and what I had my eye on picking up next.

You can also find great opportunities by sponsoring fiction podcasts or audio dramas. These shows tend to have really hardcore, fanatical followings.

In Wooden Overcoats (a sitcom following the antics of two rival funeral directors), you’ll hear some outstanding examples of their Bruno Mattress commercials. Check out the opening few minutes in Season 2, episodes 2, 3, and 4.

How to Sponsor a Podcast: Finding the Right Show

So, what if you want to sponsor a podcast but aren’t sure where to find the right show?

Well, there are companies like SXM Media who can get you in the game by finding shows for you. If you’re really busy and don’t have any time to dedicate to this, then that might be the best option.

Doing Your Own Research

Or, you can set out independently to find the perfect partner. Check out this great Podcast Audience Graph by Rephonic. There, you can look at the big shows you’d want to sponsor if money was no object, and easily find the podcasts their audience are also listening to.

Ultimately you want to search for shows with a similar target audience to your ideal customer. When listening to these shows, you’ll find good ones and bad ones – but you’ll know it when you find one that suits your company’s style.

When searching for potential partners in your podcast listening app, try typing in one of your customer’s frequently asked questions.

To return to our pet rat podcast example, if you’re the pet supply company, you might type “best pet rat bedding” into the app’s search function.

The episodes/shows that come up in your results will give you a great provisional list of potential partners. But there’s still some work to be done before we start reaching out to these podcasters…

How to Advertise on Podcasts: What to Look For in a Potential Partner

Before listening, make sure it’s an active podcast. Check the date of the last episode the podcast released. If it was over a year ago, that’s probably a no-go.

But, if it’s been a while since the podcast released a show, they might be podcasting in seasons and be on a season break. A well-organised podcast will have clearly mentioned this in its title, shownotes, or at the end of its last episode.

If the show has released an episode in the past month, then that’s enough to warrant further investigation. Here are some other things to consider…

How frequently do they release episodes? Consistently weekly or bi-weekly is an encouraging sign.

Do they run any ads already? This can make the process a lot smoother.

Does the overall tone and vibe of the show sound good to you? Is it something you’d happily be associated with?

If you find a podcast producer that you’d be interested in talking to, then go ahead and reach out to them with a pitch email. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a media kit available for download on their website. If not, though, most shows include contact details (either social or email) so that listeners and potential sponsors can get in touch. The chances are they’d be delighted to book a chat with you to bat some ideas around.

And by all means, share this article with them too. If they’re new to podcast sponsorship, then it’ll hopefully act as a good agenda for you both to talk through.

Affiliate Marketing as a Sponsorship Alternative

If you’d like to run podcast advertising at scale, with reduced overheads and less risk, then you might opt for affiliate marketing instead.

Creating an affiliate scheme for your product or service means any number of podcasters can start to promote you on their shows. When anyone signs up or buys via them, they’ll earn a commission. This is typically a decent chunk of a one-off payment or a smaller percentage of a recurring one. There are many platforms that let you set up affiliate programmes, but a couple I’m more familiar with are Awin and Impact.

Affiliate schemes mean you can start your advertising campaign for almost nothing. But, you also have a lot less control over it, and uptake might be lukewarm unless you’re offering a very good product, as well as a great deal for the creator.

Can I Sponsor a Podcast Network?

If your company or business wants to go big on a podcast advertising campaign, then you can sponsor entire podcast networks instead of single shows. This network might be full of mainstream popular podcasts (Gimlet, Wondery, etc.). Or it might be a network dedicated to podcasts in a particular niche. If you create products designed for horses and horse enthusiasts, advertising on the Horse Radio Network would be the perfect fit.   

Branded Content as a Podcast Sponsorship: Build Your Own Audience

Rather than sponsoring a pre-existing podcast, you could always consider starting your own instead. Branded shows can work wonders for growing an audience around a product, a service or an entire company. There’s nothing more effective for growing trust and credibility than a podcast, right now.

If that’s something that might interest you, then be sure to check out our free step by step guide to planning and launching a podcast.

Sponsoring Podcasts Vs Email Newsletters

At the beginning of this post, I said, “If there’s a better way to spend your advertising budget, I’m yet to see it.” But I think there’s one type of sponsorship that comes close to podcasts: email newsletters.

Email actually has a big advantage over podcast sponsorship because the reader can immediately click on your link. They don’t need to stop what they’re doing to get their phone out, or remember to check your site out later on.

But, the impact of a text-based ad is never going to come close to a host-delivered audio segment. Audio is intimate, and podcast listeners trust the shows they follow.

The good news is that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Many podcasters also run email lists, and will give you the opportunity to get the best of both worlds, here.

How to Sponsor a Podcast: Summary

So there you have it, our guide on how to sponsor a podcast. Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful, and it has helped answer the many questions you’ll have about this great marketing method.

Here are some key takeaways:

Podcast sponsorship works because the audience and topics are highly targeted.

Podcast ads, when done well, are part of the content, as opposed to interruptions.

$25 per 1000 downloads is the typical CPM rate for podcast sponsorship – however, there are no set “rules”.

The optimal position for an ad in a podcast episode is in the middle. A “Pre-roll” (before the episode starts) is second-best, with the least effective being a “Post-roll” (after the episode ends).

Finally, if you’re a podcaster looking to monetise through running ads, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Podcast Sponsorship

Originally posted on July 3, 2023 @ 3:25 am

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