The sports podcast. The genre is all-encompassing with topics ranging from football, baseball, and soccer to the more niche areas of bocce ball, darts, and eSports. Hosts come from all backgrounds including players, coaches, fans, and comedians. The sports genre also has some of the oldest podcasts in the business, dating back to 2004 when the word "podcast" was first coined.
In this episode of On the Mic with Ad Results Media, Lindsay Smith and Nate Spell are joined by ARM's Senior Copywriter, avid sports fan, and friend of the pod, Evan Brown, as he takes us on a deep dive into the history of the sports genre and the powerhouse player it can be in any brands marketing campaign.
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(3s): Do you really love your Sleep Number? And we do!
(24s): Sports podcasts. They loom large in the audio world and their ubiquity and content diversity mean they can be an important part of any brand's media plan. In this episode, ad results, media, senior copywriter noted sports watcher and occasional FanDuel writer, editor, Evan Brown will break down the ways podcasts play a crucial role in the lives of sports fans around the country. All right, so Evan, you're already a friend of the pod, so we're not going to waste any time introducing you let's jump right into sports podcasts, kick us off.
(57s): Love it. Thanks for having me back. Let's talk sports. I know it's a topic near and dear to both of your hearts. So I know we'll have much to talk about. So I love sports. I'm a lifelong sports fan. I find the world of sports entertainment offerings to be a bit overwhelming. There is a lot that part of that is how many podcasts exist these days. And to me, it's really fascinating how much can be said about sports that you're now able to literally listen to people talking about them 24 7 on multiple, you know, stations and radio and channels and things like that.
Even during quarantine, when no sports were even happening, people were still filling all that time, talking about sports. So there's a lot out there to listen to. I wanted to kind of take a look at that sports media landscape, see where podcasts fit into the whole thing. And when I started looking into it, I, I realized I needed to first look at why we like sports themselves in the first place. And as I did that, it really helped me figure out where podcasts factor in to that whole experience.
So why we like sports? I, I thought fairly deeply about this for a little while. And I came up with with four main, main things, main angles and aspects about sports that I think make them something that really connect with a lot of people. So obviously this is not a definitive list, but here's what I came up with. So the first thing is the stories we're talking, underdog stories, inspirational, overcoming adversity stories, analyzing and recapping games, creating a story arc from yesterday's games and sports happenings.
Those things that are quote unquote bigger than sports, those lessons on philanthropy and humanity, these stories, they, they drive our love for sports. We, we find the stories ourselves when we're watching and when we, and when we remember moments, I have memories distinct memories in my life about around sporting events or sporting, you know, happenings, I guess you could say that are now stories that I tell about my life. So yeah, stories I think is probably the main are probably the main thing that people really connect with when watching sports.
Another aspect is the, is the social aspect. I mean, this is bar talk. It's dad talk and mom talk, parent talk, icebreakers, making new friends, water cooler, talk, and bonding with coworkers. I found that my sports fandom was a social advantage. When I, especially when I was younger, I would go to a party and I wouldn't know anyone and I'm feeling awkward. And as soon as I find out that someone likes sports, we immediately have something to talk about. And so it felt like a, a really important kind of aspect of my social life.
And then kind of related to that. Number three is just the idea of tribalism, which is something that I think is built into humans. And even though I can obviously give some, some examples of sports fans displaying this in very unhealthy and unproductive ways. I think that sports can be a way for us to embrace that tribalism in a safer and more reasonable manner. And ultimately we can be United by it. This kind of shared love and bonding. When, when you don't take it super seriously, you have something in common with people around the world who also just love sports.
And it also unites people at a local level. They get to just kind of be friends and cheer something on side by side, regardless of who they are. So that spirit of competition is really built into us. We love watching people compete at a high level and the tribal aspect really looms large. And then finally, the last thing that I'll touch on is this idea of predicting the future. And we're talking, you know, there's a lot of betting that happens with sports. There's a lot of guessing of what is gonna happen next there.
And I think it gives people kind of a, some sense of, of feeling in control of things, to be able to feel that something is predictable while still anticipating that kind of anything can happen. So there's, there's this comfort and the familiarity and some level of predictability while also being fun and unpredictable. So I thought I would dive into just a really brief history of sports and podcasting. It's really hard to, to get a real deep dive on, on podcasting history, especially in sports when there are so many.
So this is gonna be a brief foray. So the first, from what I could tell the first notable sports podcast was the Dan Le Batard show with Stugotz in 2004. Very familiar. Yeah. I, I learned from listening to your very well researched episode about the history of podcasting in general, that 2004 is also the year that podcasting as a term was established. So really sports have been sports podcasts have been there from the inception. It's kind of woven into the fabric a couple years later in 2006, the guardian newspaper launched the football weekly podcast.
This is European football. The one that you actually play with your feet, and it was originally a world cup show, but it returned during the premier league season because it was so popular. And then a year later, 2007 was a pretty big year for sports podcast. We have the debut of fantasy focus, which was one of the first, possibly the first mainstream podcast focusing on fantasy sports. And it's still actually one of the most popular podcasts in the world. And in that same year, the Dan Patrick show debuted and anyone who watched sports center in the nineties knows that Dan Patrick is an icon of sports journalism.
And so the fact that he launched a podcast I think was a big deal. And since then, it's just, you know, dovetailed and proliferated into roughly a million sports podcasts by my, my, my calculation. I think it's a million even.
(6m 49s): I know Dan Patrick. So
(6m 51s): Yeah, Dan Patrick is he's very well known.
(6m 54s): It makes sense that there's so many sports podcasts. When I think about, you know, what you're talking about, kind of playing into these really deep human things and the ubiquity of, you know, the conversations that people are having podcasting really lends itself to those things that we really don't wanna put down whenever we, you know, we go away from the, yeah, the game is over, but I'm not done thinking about the game. I still have thoughts. I wanna hear other people's thoughts. And while I'm not, you know, up to date on the latest, you know, sporting event, usually, unless it's, unless it's baseball, depending on how the Astros are doing, I do really resonate with that in, in other areas.
And it's, it's, it's not a surprise to me to know that sports was there right at the beginning.
(7m 36s): Yeah. That's actually a really good point because yeah, if there's that idea of, you know, say you're a football fan and the games are only on mostly only on Sundays and occasionally Monday, the rest of the week, you may just be craving. You just need that football fix. It reminds me of a time I was in an Uber years ago and this guy, it was in the morning, it was probably 10 in the morning and this guy was playing this like club dancing, techno music. And when I talked to him for a few minutes, I realized this guy just doesn't want the club party to end, you know, he, he's just playing this music all day so that the party never stops even when he's working.
And, you know, I think it's a similar thing. It's just, you don't wanna leave the game behind. So let's talk a little bit about some of the different types of sports podcasts. There are so many of them, you've got like the Dan Patrick show, you've got these side podcasts for, for major talent and ESPN hosts and things like that. There are a lot of TV commentators, or even athletes themselves that have podcasts on the side to kind of dive deeper than they can on say a 15 minute pregame show. And then of course you have a ton of just indie hosts unknowns or mid-level, you know, people who are not on ESPN who have a lot who have plenty to say about sports themselves.
You've got the more kind of comedic thing that the ones that are kind of like hanging out with friends, like a couple of bros or girls sitting around talking about sports. And, you know, the, I think the SLAR brothers are an example of that one. They're two comedians and they have a podcast that they talk about sports. And so they kind of combine the two.
(9m 13s): So I know the Sklar brothers because they used to host battle bots. And so that's how I'm familiar with them. So I don't know if that would be considered sports or not.
(9m 23s): I was just about to say, so do we get to decide if battle bots is a sport or not? Cause there's probably an argument to be made.
(9m 30s): Yeah. There's something about the spectacle of sports and the spectacle of battle bots. That feels very, it feels like UFC for bots. So there's
(9m 38s): Absolutely sportsmanship involved in it, you know? Yeah. Like there's, there's kind of a, a code of ethics that goes along with building a killer robot. So yeah.
(9m 47s): We'll have to get this glove brothers on for another episode and, and get their take. It's funny. You mentioned them. I was, I was thinking about better call Saul, cuz there is a recent episode. I don't know if y'all follow the show, but there's this, this moment in the show where he has to use sports as a conversation and
(10m 4s): Yes.
(10m 4s): Yeah. It, it reminded me of this episode that we had coming up cuz I was like, this is exactly the kind of skill that I need. The ability to just like slip into a sports conversation when it's convenient and kind of ironically, the scar brothers had a great cameo on better call Saul. That was, that was the connection there.
(10m 21s): Oh interesting. Oh we're full circle here. Yeah. I, I love that scene cuz at first he's just struggling and, and making stuff up and then he goes out of his way to just study past games and he just starts bringing up. Oh, you know, it was that time in 87 when, so and so did this and it's like, wow, you have a great memory. So yeah. So more types of sports podcasts. You've got your analysis and betting and stats focused podcast, which leads me directly into the fantasy sports podcast, which is big business.
For those who don't know, who may not know fantasy sports is in my opinion where the line between jock and nerd is blurred forever. I think that the, the media would like us to believe that jocks and nerds are polar opposites, but then we have this thing that's literally called fantasy sports. It's basically the Dungeons and dragons of sports where people obsess over stats and make believe teams. So I'm just throwing that out there. That fantasy sports are the, the nerdy part of the sports world.
(11m 24s): I've always been fascinated by fantasy sports.
(11m 26s): Yeah. Have you ever participated?
(11m 28s): No. No, but we've had fantasy sports leagues here at ad results and I've watched other people put their teams together or how it, I'm not 100% sure how it works, but I've watched other people participate. I, I would be totally out of my element, but I I'm very fascinated at this idea of crafting like your own kind of fantasy team.
(11m 56s): Yeah. I have a, a friend who knows absolutely nothing about football. He doesn't watch it. He doesn't follow anything. And he plays fantasy football every year and sometimes wins because in some ways you really don't even have to know about Albert for some people. It even works against them because they're overanalyzing like crazy. So I would say that if you have an interest in it, you should give it a try. Sometime you might, you might find a new obsession.
(12m 22s): The thing that appeals to me about fantasy, you know, I mentioned earlier that maybe I'm following baseball. If the Astros or some other team I'm interested in is doing well or if like we're in the world series. But what does appeal to me about fantasy is when you have a fantasy team, every game is made more interesting because it contributes to this other layer of story that otherwise you might not care about what some, some, you know, random team or some player on another team that you don't really follow how they're doing or, or what's going on with them.
But yeah, I'm kind of with you Lindsay, cuz the amount of preparation that would have to go into me playing, you know, I'm competitive. Ironically, even though I don't follow a lot of sports, so I would want to do well at fantasy. And then I know that I would have to invest so much time. So it, it holds me back.
(13m 14s): Yeah. I would probably be one of those over analyzers because like, like you said, I'm also naturally competitive. Like don't get me started on like a trivia night, like I'm insufferable
(13m 26s): Is Mario Kart a sport like, cause I can throw down
(13m 31s): It's what you could call it an eSport.
(13m 34s): Oh there you go.
(13m 36s): ESports. And yeah, I think, I think a lot of people like fantasy football because they have something to cheer on in games that they otherwise would not care about. For me, the only thing I have to be careful of when I play is I don't want to draft players on teams that I hate or players that I don't like, because I don't want to have to root for them. Yeah. So,
(13m 57s): You know, you're taking like a principled stand there,
(14m 0s): There is some danger to take into consideration. Well, speaking of eSports, actually this brings me to the, my last example of types of podcast. And we're gonna go into niche sports or, or niche sports depending on how French you feel today. But there are so many, so okay. If you like cornhole, I found at least 13 cornhole podcasts. Wow.
(14m 25s): Oh
(14m 25s): Wow. A ton of darts podcasts. Same with bowling. I found four mini-golf podcasts. I found a Bocce ball podcast, Frisbee, disc golf, kickball and eSports, I think would also fit into this. There's obviously a ton of e-sports considering eSports is where sports and technology kind of overlap that, you know, that's a natural fit for the podcasting world. I tried to get as obscure as possible. I did not find any podcasts about bumper pool.
Have you are either of you familiar with bumper pool?
(14m 59s): No.
(15m 0s): It's like someone looked at a pool table and was like, that's too easy. I'm just gonna put a bunch of things in the way, like that's
(15m 6s): Actually, I know what you're talking about
(15m 8s): Now to be fair I'm sure. Because there's certainly lots of billiards podcasts. I'm sure someone had somewhere has had an episode where they talked about bumper pool, but I was just really trying to drill down and find a sport or a game that didn't have a podcast. And it was very difficult
(15m 24s): Whenever speaking of the blurring, the lines between nerds and, and jocks whenever I was in college and I'm sure still today Quidditch was actually really popular. Now I did see that they changed their name.
(15m 37s): Yes. Is it quad ball
(15m 39s): Now? So now they've they've they wanted to distance themselves, I think a little bit. Yeah. But I wouldn't be surprised if there's a podcast about quad ball or, or two or 300.
(15m 48s): Yeah, absolutely.
(15m 50s): So as you were researching niche sports, it sounds like there were, there were just as like much diversity in the podcast landscape as there is like, you know, a thousand or whatever, thousands of football podcasts. It, it also goes really broad.
(16m 4s): Yeah. Yeah. I think, and this is one of the reasons for sure why there are just so many because there are so many sports and there are so many focuses that you can, you know, by team or by sport or by, or just sports in general or, you know, there's, there's so many ways you can drill down. Well, on that note, we could get into the actual podcasting benefits. Like the reasons that sports podcasts are special as compared to other sports media. And you know, one of those reasons is that that example of the niche sports, you can find a podcast for what, any sport that you like or a team that you want that you'll never hear about on local radio or ESPN.
And that's a big advantage cuz you know, although ESPN does play cornhole, sometimes they're not talking about it on sports center. So if you really want to, if you really wanna get the analysis, you go to a podcast. And also partly because of this, this means that sports podcast can appeal to casual and hardcore fans. So the appeal is broad. You can dive super deep. You can just hear some light, fun takes and updates. You can integrate sports with other content like comedy. Like we already talked about a podcast, doesn't have to be all sports all the time and that can attract a different audience.
You could even, you could create narrative stories. You could do documentary styles that are, you know, sports themed, but would appeal to non-sports fans. Nate you've told me in the past that you're not a particular baseball fan, but you love, you are way into watching the Ken burns baseball documentary. So that's like a, that's a good example of the audience could be so wide when you're talking about the, the format variety that you can have in podcasts.
(17m 52s): Is it the 30 for 30 podcast? They did an excellent series on Bikram yoga, which was awesome that I've probably listened to four or five times at this point.
(18m 8s): Yeah. That's a very well-regarded series of documentaries for both podcast and film the 30 for 30 stuff. So that doesn't surprise me one bit that they would do a really good job with a, with a yoga episode. Of course the, the, just the on-demand aspect for any podcast is a big advantage and a big convenience. Also a lot of these podcasts, they have access to athletes, including not just the superstars that can have an interesting perspective. It's not all just interviews with LeBron James.
Sometimes these athletes get to be interviewed by a, a fan, like a true fan themselves instead of just an analyst. And I think that can really connect with an audience if they feel like if they're a fan and they feel like they're their, their favorite athlete or local athlete is being interviewed by a fellow fan. And then there's this idea of localization sports fandom is often heavily tied to where you're from and moving away, doesn't usually change your team. Loyalty years ago, I moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and I wasn't particularly interested in listening to sports radio here, cuz all they talked about was the Lakers and I didn't care about the Lakers, but there was a morning show in Philadelphia that every morning after they broadcast, they would put up a podcast version afterwards.
And so I would listen to that every morning and I could hear them talking about teams and things that I liked and do is helped kind of ease my transition into a new city. So I think being able to kind of feel like feel local, no matter where you live or get that local experience is a huge advantage of podcasts that you just don't get. Certainly not on TV and, and most radio as well.
(19m 49s): There's the local aspect. And then podcasting is so intimate. So it's, it's like high, you can get that local feeling and then you have the added intimacy of, you know, you're listening to this while you're going about your day and it feels so close
(20m 3s): And, and you'll get the, you know, second, third tier local athletes getting, you know, coming on and taking, doing calls and doing interviews and talking for 45 minutes or an hour. And you, it's the type of thing that most people outside your city aren't interested in, but you're fascinated by it. Cuz you want to know you watched that game where that guy hit for the cycle last night and you want, and he's was such an unlikely thing and you wanted to hear his experience. So it's, it's a really cool, it's a really cool advantage.
All that being said, why, what did I conclude as far as why we love sports podcasts so much between why we love sports and the advantages of podcasts. If you think about it, it's, it's funny because it seems like at the end of any given sports season, only one fan base would be happy. It's the, you know, the championship team only, only they should be the happy ones, but obviously that's not the case. So there must be something else that keeps fans coming back year after year, even if their team's always lose.
And it can't just be that they love being miserable. Although I think some people do kind of enjoy the misery of it for most people. That's not the draw. And it's also interesting how, you know, there's gonna be rule changes and, and new rules and just general changes to games over time. But essentially year over year, the same things are happening over and over. You know, we, but we find new new things to talk about and new stories to tell in that sameness and the beginning of each season feels fresh.
It's full of hope and optimism. It's a blank slate even for bad teams. And you know, you never know when there could be a Cinderella story and along the way, the stories that we tell and that we find they're often really similar, but they have a different cast of characters. They have a different backstory for each season. There's new heroes and new villains. And we find that newness in that familiarity that year after year, I've seen a million interceptions and yet they still feel like an event.
They still feel exciting. I can find something different about them if I wanna really analyze like, oh, that person messed up or that person made a really cool play, but still it's really, it's really the same thing over and over, but I still find it exciting and new. I think that our enjoyment of sports is really the very definition of the journey over the destination, the destination being the end of the season, the championship, the parade, you know, all that. And I think podcasts play a huge role in that. They're a huge part of that journey.
They're finding these stories, they're on the same ride with us. None of us together know what's in store around that next corner. So we all get to talk about it with anticipation and podcasts have become woven into that story. And when you add those convenience and benefits that we already talked about, it's, it's such a winning combination. So that's why I think that they're so important and so popular
(23m 1s): That really resonates with me. So I think you probably know that. So I'm from Louisiana originally. And so I grew up, my dad's a huge saints fan and you know, I just, I remember year after year being like, man, it really sucks that the saints are not doing well. Like for my whole childhood, the saints were not doing well essentially. And then in 2010 they won the Superbowl. And I remember the emotional turnaround that I saw like in my dad, like after like watching him cheer on the saints year after year after year.
And they were always the underdog and there's something so magical. I mean, I, I don't watch sports a lot, but that, I mean, I definitely get the feeling of like, that is so cool. Whenever your team turns around and the Astros are another great example of that.
(23m 47s): I was gonna say the Astros specifically after Harvey hit Houston, because we went through such a tragic incident and then the Astros won the world series and people were in the streets. Yep. They were celebrating like the whole city shut down. I mean, businesses closed early. They let employees go home early. Like everybody was partying. Like I don't think that people understand how that one instance brought the city together after such a horrifying hurricane season.
(24m 24s): And the same story is similar because that was very shortly after Katrina.
(24m 29s): And I mean, these were, some of these people are, are folks who, who aren't, you know, sports fans, but it would just, it just brought the city together. Like even even me who, you know, Nate, to your point, I don't, I also don't watch a ton of sports, but like, it's just, it's still just kind of this uplifting. Yeah. It just brings the, it just brings the whole city together
(24m 49s): And there's something really primal about it. It's like we have all these stories going back through like ancient mythology up till present day of like sometimes the good guys don't win at least at first. And there's that thing where you're like, it's, it's always that dark night of the soul thing, you know? And I think there's a lot of that in sports where you have, you know, you have teams where they're, it almost becomes a standing joke how often they're in that dark night of the soul,
(25m 16s): I'm from Philadelphia. So I, I know that very well. And I often tell people that you can't, you'll never experience the complete true, pure joy of victory. If you haven't been along the ride for just the misery of defeat and just let yourself be defeated as a human being along the way it makes the, the, the one time that you get the, the winner, just all that more sweet.
(25m 44s): And then in the micro level, you're talking about every interception is different. Like yeah, an interception is an interception whenever you're tallying the stats, but whenever you're watching the game, the details that you care about are always different. Who and how, and,
(25m 59s): And the context of when it happens in the game. And yeah. Yeah. There's so many little little factors. Yeah. And so all of this segues perfectly into my last, my last point here, which is how this audience resonance makes sports podcast a really important part of a media strategy. So these hosts have really deep bonds with their listeners. The things that we've talked about for just being a fan, like it, it goes beyond watching. It clearly goes beyond watching a game.
So that connection between fan and host goes beyond just hearing this person's opinion of a game. And so it's, it's really beyond sports. Sports are the medium, but this is socializing. This is, you know, it's like you said, it's something primal. This is it's talking with your friends and family. So there's a lot of trust built. And a, and I think a genuine endorsement from a host on a sports podcast can really resonate even if a product isn't sports related, just because of that, that bond. So I think that sports podcasts are just a, a great, important option to consider, especially considering how many there are and how many different avenues you can kind of go down.
Like, you know, if you really, really want an audience who loves darts, have we got some podcasts for you
(27m 18s): And also, you know, never underestimating just like that engagement beyond just the sports thing. Like there, I'm not just listening to the, the podcast because I really care about my team or whatever the discussion is for the day. I care about this show. It's part of who I am. This is part of my tribe and something that I was thinking about whenever you were talking about all the niche sports, but also the different formats. You know, it's a great opportunity if you're buying programmatic or you're doing something with like digital ad insertion, that's not going to be endorser red as well, because there's a lot of storytelling that you can do with brands that don't necessarily seem to be directly sportsy, but that can fit in with an audience who's already really engaged
(28m 2s): Coming back to 30 for 30. You know, I've mentioned that I'm not a huge sports person, but I do teach yoga on the side. And so I am a big yoga fan and I did listen to the series on Bikram yoga. And I do think that brands should be open to marketing to someone like me, who maybe is listening to these podcasts outside of like the football realm or the baseball realm, because there are so many other options out there.
And like you said, there are niche podcasts, like e-sports and Bocce ball. And so I think that just having an open mind and, and marketing to folks like me, just kind of in those more niche realms could be a really powerful addition to their marketing plan.
(28m 53s): Evan, thanks so much for joining us today. I think it was really awesome to talk through all this with you. And I hope our listeners got as much out of it as we did.
(29m 2s): If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions, or ideas for future segments. If you would like more information on Ad Results Media and what we do, please visit us online at adresultsmedia.com. This podcast is an Ad Results Media production.