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How do branded podcasts perform? Here’s an honest discussion!

Ry-union cover image


How do branded podcasts perform? Here’s an honest discussion!

Podcasting as an industry can sometimes seem quite secretive, particularly when it comes to downloads and engagement. And with more branded shows making their way into the podcasts charts, it can seem like everyone is in competition with each other. So when the Director of Commercial & Client Relations at production company Listen wrote an article on the performance of Ry-Union (one of their branded podcasts) we were intrigued. In the blog post, Josh Adley shares insights on the objectives, strategies and results of producing a branded podcast – something that is usually kept close to the chest.

Listen offered to share their blog post with us – and we asked Josh a few questions about the reasons behind the post.

Hi Josh! Your blog on the performance of the ‘Ry-Union’ podcast shared an aspect of the podcast industry that is often hidden. What has been the reaction? Have you had much feedback/kickback?

There’s been a positive reaction on LinkedIn with various people in the industry liking the post. It’s reached 1,300 on LinkedIn so far.

Bianca Bush, the Commercial Insights Manager at Acast re-shared the blog on her LinkedIn saying:

A great article from Josh Adley on the latest Sky Bingo and Ry-Union branded podcast performance. Loved evaluating the effectiveness of this on both the brand and podcast and love the podcast itself! I may be bias but 1000% agree with Josh that podcasts are a new media, there isn’t enough data shared on them yet (working on it!) and measuring effectiveness is key to evaluate holistic performance. Josh says it all with this really: ‘Research studies provided valuable insight’.

You wrote this blog because there’s “not enough transparency in the podcast sector.” What else would you like to see other companies share?

Generally speaking, podcast data isn’t as widely available as other content mediums. On YouTube it’s very easy to see how many people watched and interacted with a video. Likewise other forms of social media. With podcasts we tend to hear about the biggest shows globally and how many millions of downloads they get (eg Serial, Joe Rogan etc) but there isn’t much published outside of that. There are many podcasts that look like huge successes (because they have quickly topped the charts and created a buzz around their show initially), but we know that consistency is the key to podcast success and there are undoubtedly tonnes of shows with a huge listenership that many people aren’t aware of, or certainly aren’t aware of how popular they are.

We produce an entrepreneurial-focused podcast for Fiverr called Ninetwentynine, which consistently gets 20,000-35,000 downloads an episode (at just shy of 2million downloads total). It is, however, most likely a good example of a podcast that has been a huge success (with an engaged and dedicated audience each week), whilst not being spoken about as often as the biggest hitters. There are countless articles about Serial but very few about podcasts that aren’t in the top 0.01%. If we can talk about these kinds of podcasts more, we start to create serious value because it’s where most people entering the space should be setting their goals at. By all means look to become the next ‘How I Built This’, but start by consistently doing 30,000 downloads a week! And for those podcasts that to do that – let’s share our stories and how we got there. One very good example is this article by Dan Murray-Serter, which I would argue is more valuable to a budding podcaster than anything you’ll read on Serial or Gimlet.

When it comes to branded podcasts it’s still a fairly small sub-section of the podcast landscape. Growing it is beneficial to all manner of individuals and podcast companies. The more that brands see the value in podcasting, the better for those looking to attract sponsors and fund creative ideas. Not every branded client will be happy sharing the results of their podcast, but for those who are (like Sky Bingo), by sharing that data it should help other brands understand what success looks like. The podcast industry is built around a sense of community. That’s what attracted me in the first place and it’s what attracts so many people to become fans of their favourite shows. If we can take this community spirit one step further and share how we approach projects, what worked and didn’t and what the results were against the defined objectives, then we are helping the podcast community to set more accurate benchmarks, improve understanding and ultimately get more creative ideas made.

Thank you Josh! Read the full blog post:

How did our branded podcast perform?

There’s not enough transparency in the podcast sector. Download numbers aren’t public and appearances don’t tell the full story.
Whilst branded podcasts are growing, it currently relies on ambitious marketing teams, an experienced production agency and a shared belief to green light a project.

The more we share results, our learnings and celebrate successes, the more marketing directors will see the value in originating a podcast as part of their content plans.

With that in mind, I wanted to dig into ‘Ry-Union’ – one of the branded shows we launched in late 2021 with Sky Bingo and YMU.
Between Listen and our Sky clients we ran significant research studies to uncover what worked, how we fared against our objectives, and what we can build on for the future.

The objectives

  • Increase awareness of Sky Bingo.
  • Deliver everyday excitement, alongside exciting talent.
  • Increase brand sentiment.

Top Picks Ry-Union highlights

The method

  • Engaging podcast format: reuniting celebrities from the worlds of music, film, TV and entertainment.
  • A passionate host who genuinely wanted to ‘own’ the content as his own, rather than seeing it as a branded gig for hire.

Enter one of the UK’s most-loved entertainment presenters, Rylan.

  • Strong guests and storytelling (unique stories that haven’t been told before).
  • Dedicated PR throughout the series (Carver PR).
  • Significant promotion plan (audio ads, talent posting, social ads).
  • Bespoke social assets (videos).

The results

  • 2 million video views across social.
  • +82% engagement rate (vs benchmark).
  • +50% uplift for brand awareness.
  • +8% brand favourability.
  • +9% brand trust.
  • ~ 175,000 downloads in the first 3.5 months.
  • 87% average consumption rate.
  • Consistently in the top 5 Apple Podcasts Society & Culture chart.
  • 325 pieces of press coverage including TV appearance on ITV1’s Lorraine and a magazine cover of The Observer).

Stats came from research conducted by On Device and Nielsen (in partnership with Acast).

For a fairly short-run series (10 episodes), these results were incredibly pleasing. Our objectives were met, our promotion campaign proved effective, and the team finished energised about what is next for Ry-Union.

Editorially, research told us which episodes were received best. We also learned a lot about the views and behaviours of those who heard our audio ad (eg recall of podcast, association with brand and talent, brand awareness and crucially that >1 in 2 people would take an action after hearing the ad with circa 50% planning to listen to the podcast).


There’s nothing game-changing about the strategy on this one:

  • Strong talent + engaging content + strategic promotion plan = success.
  • Diverse and well-invested marketing in combination with a phenomenal PR job = effective.
  • Research studies provided valuable insight.
  • And most importantly…. sharing results is a positive thing for the industry.
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