Brand advertisers flock to ESPN podcast series

ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast series (announced in RAIN News in March) launched yesterday, and the company released a sponsor lineup that includes four national brands. Car company MINI USA leads the pack as presenting sponsor, and other national brands supporting the series are Citi, Blue Moon brewery, and Delta Air Lines. Direct response advertiser Blue Apron (home-shipped meals, a frequent podcast sponsor) is also on board.

The announcement is significant insofar as the podcast economy is regarded at an inflection point, attempting to evolve beyond its legacy appeal to DRM (direct response marketing) advertisers, and draw money from the big marketing budgets of national branding campaigns.

A recent announcement from Apple that its iTunes/Podcasts ecosystem would begin releasing consumer analytics later this year is widely seen as a step forward in providing a metrics currency that might help national agencies and advertisers understand the podcast listening audience. Although Apple’s plan does not include identification metrics, the system will illuminate the extent to which pre-rolls, mid-rolls, and post-rolls are actually heard — crucial intelligence which has mostly been missing in the 12-year-old audio category.

ESPN notes that it worked with each advertiser to custom-create spots, contextually relevant to the programming. the series host, Jody Avirgan, will voice the commercials. 30 for 30 is a collaboration of ESPN Films and ESPN Audio. Yesterday’s launch begins an audio-only version of the well-known 30 for 30 documentary film series, which has produced over 100 films. Each audio podcast will tell a sports story with a combination of original interviews and archival audio.


Brad Hill