Podcasts: Which sports fans are listening?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
December 18, 2020, 4:28 PM GMT+0

Podcasts are an advertiser’s dream. More than half of podcast listeners in the United States don’t skip over the ads even though they easily can and about a third say they don’t find them to be an intrusive form of marketing, perhaps a result of the intimate nature of what is often host-read copy.

YouGov’s deep data on podcast listenership across multiple markets gives us a great understanding of how sports fans – across different sports and different markets – listen to podcasts. This data can help inform marketers eager to connect with sports fans to navigate the ocean of podcast programs, whether they want to advertise or create a podcast of their own.

For the purposes of this analysis, we’re looking at fans of the top four sports in four major sporting markets: The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Our data shows roughly a third basketball fans (32%) in the United States are most likely to listen to podcasts at least once a week, compared to fans of other major sports in different markets. That stats bodes well for a roster of NBA-focused titles, such as ESPN’s The Lowe Post, or Kevin Durrant’s new cast, The ETCs.

But YouGov data shows at least a quarter of fans of all major sports in the US are tuning in to some type of podcast during the week: 28% of baseball fans say so along with 27% of hockey fans and 26% of football fans.

While general podcast listenership in other markets isn’t quite at the same level as in the US, it’s still healthy. In the United Kingdom, among the fan bases of the market’s most popular sports, tennis fans are most likely to listen to podcasts at least once a week, with 23% saying so. Slightly fewer football fans (21%), cricket fans (19%) and rugby union fans (19%) agree.

Similar figures emerge in France, with roughly a quarter (24%) of the country’s football fans stating they listen to podcasts at least on a weekly basis, followed by tennis fans (23%), cycling fans (22%) and rugby union fans (22%).

In Germany, podcast listenership again is slightly lower, but still a worthwhile audience. Roughly one in five (22%) of athletics fans listen to podcasts once a week, followed by fans of football (18%), ski jumping (17%) and biathlon (15%).

Sports podcasting, like the industry in general, is going through tremendous change and considerable consolidation. For example, as part of Spotify’s podcast network shopping spree over the last year, the Swedish audio streaming giant bought The Ringer and by extension the uber-popular Bill Simmons Podcast.

While there was some speculation in the spring that the pandemic would have a negative effect on podcasts since fewer people were commuting to and from work, separate data collected by YouGov in June revealed that just 16% of American listeners said they were listening less as a result of COVID-19, while 29% said they were listening more. This is in line with YouGov consumer data that shows two in five (38%) American listeners listen to their favorite podcasts while doing housework.

Related findings: How many Americans are willing to pay for podcasts?

Methodology: Podcast listenership is based on the question How often, if at all, do you listen to podcasts (including radio programs you are subscribed to as podcasts)?” and those who responded with the answer at least once a week. Sports fans are determined based on the question: “Which, if any, of the following sports do you watch / follow? Please select all that apply. By watch / follow, we mean that you either actively read about the sport on a regular basis, watch live broadcasts or highlights of matches/events online or TV, or attend matches/events in person?. The sports highlighted are the top sports in each region based on responses to that question. Sample sizes are 662 - 1,881 in the United States, 410 - 844 in the United Kingdom, 951 - 2,073 in Germany, and 466 - 506 in France. Interviews were conducted online between December 2019 and December 2020.

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