On Mic, On Brand – podcasts’ untapped audiences and their symphonic relationship with sponsors

On Mic, On Brand – podcasts’ untapped audiences and their symphonic relationship with sponsors

  • Media & Entertainment

30th November 2023

Unlike any other media, podcasts have the ability to cultivate deep trust in long-form content that travels way beyond the mic. This trust is transferred over to podcast sponsors - anyone who’s been a podcast audience member, either as a stan or casual listener, knows the reliance of podcasts on their sponsors. Some podcasts become inseparable from their long-time sponsors, with trusted hosts providing their own voice, spin and flair to ads.

A lot has changed since the early noughties’ ‘audio blog posts’ that started to pop up in innovative corners of internet content, with the global podcasting market reportedly being worth $23.75 billion in 2023. Those who can successfully ride the podcast wave can drum up one of the most unique audience relationships out there.

In this audience examination deep-dive, we look at the dynamics and cross-platform spread of three major podcasts - before digging into how the most successful podcasts harness the power of their audiences to open up major success avenues for both them and their sponsors. 

The first podcast and biggest in volume in our search is Stanford University associate professor and neurobiologist Andrew Huberman’s podcast, Huberman Lab. We also examine Call Her Daddy, a podcast  presented by Alexandra Cooper. She interviews celebrity guests who often have a scandal to address. Finally, we look at former journalist and Tony Blair era Labour advisor Alistair Campbell’s podcast The Rest is Politics. He co-presents with former Tory cabinet minister Rory Stewart, presenting an insider’s view on UK politics today.

Our search immediately showed a conversational skew to Huberman Lab - not surprising given his more generalist appeal and broad range of topics. His appeal is also not geographically limited, unlike The Rest is Politics which operates very much in the British political sphere. Beyond this, much of Huberman's success appears predicated on a guru-like personality and authority, which we’ll examine in more detail later.

All three podcasts have a large media personality fronting them. Campbell brings a historic broadcast and social media presence, whilst Cooper brings her plethora of celebrity guests as well as her own personal influencer status.

Given his history as a controversial journalist and politician, It’s not surprising that Campbell’s The Rest is Politics garners 69% of TV & Radio mentions - despite only taking up 27% of the conversation. It’s also very understandable that Call Her Daddy takes up almost half of the online news conversation despite only taking up 10% of the overall volume - Cooper’s A-list guests talking about scandalous moments garners a lot of attention from online tabloids and gossip magazines.

Huberman dominates the Reddit sphere in our search, where his impact spreads from r/HubermanLab to subreddits such as r/addiction, r/ADHDwomen and r/testosterone.

Huberman is regarded across this platforms as an authoritative voice, able to bring balanced scientific opinion even to areas outside his immediate expertise. Because of this, lots of conversation leads towards Huberman’s personality and personal impact on others’ lives - even humorous content where fans laugh at themselves for their devotion. 

Let’s get into each podcast’s online footprint and how online celebrity impacts conversation.

Similar to Huberman’s bombshell personality pervading a lot of discourse around his podcast, Campbell’s celebrity dominates discourse around The Rest is Politics.

An interesting flashpoint in the above example comes when BBC Radio 4 politics show ‘The Week in Westminster’ talks about how Campbell harnesses the phenomenal reach of podcasts - the radio host highlights The Rest is Politics in comparison to the world’s most famous podcaster, Joe Rogan, who operates in the same manosphere as Andrew Huberman. 

That said, Huberman's audience is also more demographically diverse than others who share that imagined space:

Chart showing the sub-audiences of huberman in an interconnected web

The above shows distinct groups and the commonalities they share in online behavior and affinity. The lines represent interconnections between the different members of the segments. The bigger the node is, the more connected it is to the rest of the members in the audience analyzed.

As we can see from Sporty Music Fans and Tech Trailblazers, there’s a certain level of ‘cool’ to this audience. However the heavy involvement of Conservatives, Health & Science Advocates and Fitness & Wellness Coaches underpins both the universality and the perceived gravitas of Huberman’s content.

Andrew Huberman’s content gives audience agency and the self belief to change their attitude towards their body - a feature missing from a lot of male-leaning content in popular culture. Many posts mention the fact he’s giving this expert advice for ‘free’, situating him as a goldmine and prized possession for audiences. This emotional connection, and the fact so many of these brands and products can be folded into the kind of lifestyle Huberman expounds, means these provide great opportunities for sponsors.

Conflicted about Dr. Huberman
byu/Dr_lickies inHubermanLab

Huberman Lab’s sponsors are often health and healthtech companies, with current sponsors including online counseling BetterHelp, sleep app Waking Up and performance supplement company Momentous.

One of Huberman Lab’s most notable sponsors has been Whoop, a digi-health-tech-wearable-internet-of-things device company that aims to become a specialist in the health areas in which Apple Watch is a generalist. Andrew Huberman even partnered with the product to create a breathing regimen that aims to lower stress.

Whoop audiences in interconnected chart

At first, these audiences may not seem like they have much in common aside from a health and fitness leaning. Golf and gaming plays a big part in Whoop’s audience, whereas Huberman’s audience leans towards science and finance with Health & Science Advocates and Crypto Investors.

In the spirit of Whoop’s whole performance tracking, let’s get into the minutia of the similarity across the Whoop and Huberman Lab audiences.

When we look at the crossover between the Huberman Lab and Whoop audiences, it’s clear that they’re an amazing match. Key metrics such as age and gender match near perfectly, whilst location and interests also have strong correlation.

The only area that we’re left with a non-match is in the audiences’ influencers. Though this might initially indicate a disconnect, a 38% match between influencers becomes actually very impressive when reframed in context - the both audiences have a crossover of over one in three of the influencers that reach them. In a world with over one billion X accounts and over one billion TikTok accounts, that’s pretty impressive.

Finally, let’s look at the deep insight you can find when cross-analysing audiences. We can see that over 60% of sub-audience intersections showed a moderate or high similarity, with six being highly similar. It comes as no shock that Tech Entrepreneurs and Tech Trailblazers find similarity, but when we see moderate similarity between Health & Fitness Fanatics and Conservatives, we find new depth to the way these two audiences relate.

Huberman and Whoop’s partnership success is clear. Huberman offers perfect micro-niches for audiences to tag onto and envelope into their own identities and personalities. His success in cultivating trust, expertise and scientific reputation means that if he’s putting anything out there, people will believe him. And by extension - if he peddles a product, people will buy it.

It’s clear that Huberman has a high conversion rate when it comes to the products and services he advertises. 

With high correlation, however, can come pressure. All products are held to the high standards expected of Huberman by his audience - which can naturally lead to backlashes and skepticism. For example, BetterHelp, whose use of health data and sketchily-qualified therapists have garnered lots of negative attention.

In the case of the  Rest is Politics’ sponsor, Sky UK, the play is slightly different. Sky is attempting to use the sponsorship to get high-value, long-term products such as insurance or entertainment packages in front of the urban, liberal, middle-aged communities who make up a sizeable slice of the overall Resit is Politics audience.

Of course, these products have ostensibly little to do with the content of the podcast itself – if anything, the hosts are openly opposed to the Rupert Murdoch, the figure most identifiable with Sky as a brand. So the strategy appears more predicated on visibility and awareness than it is any infleuncer advocacy.

Call Her Daddy, meanwhile, is sponsored by Tinder - the Millennial women who make up the Call Her Daddy audience are an important part of the broader Tinder user base. With Cooper, there isn't the same relationship as with Huberman being a leader for the audience. Instead, Call Her Daddy’s gossip-focused interview format and interchanging guests also capture the vibe of the experience of dating as a young woman. Tinder is also mostly free, so maybe doesn't call for the strong relationships we see with Huberman.

With Huberman, the idea of health hacking, slowing aging and improving productivity causes highly emotional reactions from listeners, with audiences feeling like they have access to information that means they can finally address elements of their life they’re not happy with, as well as use the Huberman toolkit to reach their potential. Audiences’ fear of aging, illness and not living one’s fullest life makes Huberman a great salesman.

Huberman sells a lifestyle, to a specific audience. Brands are therefore presented with the opportunity to identify their products with that lifestyle – a powerful part of any wider marketing strategy.

In a meta twist, we don't just study the audiences of podcasts. We also support a podcast that's all about audience discovery and development. The Audiences Podcast features Pulsar CEO Francesco D'Orazio talking to guests who build audiences for a living. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

And you’d like to find out more about any of these datasets or learn how Pulsar can help you understand your own audience, fill in the form below: