Podcast Sponsorships vs. Podcast Guesting

You have the budget to invest in a podcast strategy for your business but aren’t sure whether to sponsor podcasts or go on a podcast guesting tour.


Podcast Sponsorships vs. Podcast Guesting: Which one is right for your brand?

You have the budget to invest in a podcast strategy for your business but aren’t sure whether to sponsor podcasts or go on a podcast guesting tour.

While both podcast sponsorships and podcast guesting are great ways to raise awareness of your brand, they each have their unique benefits and challenges that you need to keep in mind when deciding which path to take.

This guide will help outline the pros and cons of sponsorships vs. guesting so you can decide which strategy best fits your overall business goals.

If you’re wondering whether podcast production is right for you, check out this article comparing the differences between branded podcasts and podcast tours. And if you’re just starting to dive into the world of podcasting for business, check out this episode of Brands that Podcast to learn more about the 4 different strategies you can take.

Benefits of podcast sponsorships vs. benefits of podcast guesting

Your primary goals when using podcasting as a marketing tool should be to raise brand awareness, stay top of mind, and build trust with your target audience. All three of these are possible with both sponsorships and guesting. However, each channel has its own benefits that might align better with the overall outcomes you’re trying to achieve for your business.

Sponsoring podcasts may be better for you if you want to:

Target your ideal audience faster

Podcast ads are the fastest way to get in front of your target audience. It’s a pay-to-play game, meaning if you’re willing to invest, it’ll be much quicker to get your brand out there than it is to secure interviews or produce your own show.

All you have to do is create a list of shows you want to sponsor, ask for their media kits and pricing, and hit the ground running if it’s in your budget.

Create partnerships with hosts

You have 2 options when it comes to podcast advertising:

  1. Sponsorships: a 1:1 relationship with the show for an extended period of time
  2. Self-serve ads: short-run ads on specific shows served through podcast ad networks or an ad agency

If it’s important for your brand to build relationships with influential hosts in your industry, you’re going to want to take a more one-on-one approach and work with the show/host to create a long-term partnership.

The great thing about building these relationships is as the host becomes more and more familiar with your brand, they’ll be able to talk about you more naturally. And the more natural host-read ads are, the higher the recall and attention rate of the listeners. 

Check out this episode of Brands that Podcast with Ahrefs’ CMO, Tim Soulo, on the power of authentic sponsored podcast content.

Expand your potential listener reach

Podcast sponsorships also allow you to expand your listener reach in comparison to podcast guesting. While podcast tours also have an expansive reach, ads allow your brand to appear on shows that might not make sense for you to guest on.

For example, if your brand is geared towards women but your CEO/founder is a man, it might be harder for him to get interviews on shows predominantly featuring female guests. Instead, you can sponsor these shows and still get your brand out to the right audience.

It also allows you to stay relevant in the podcasting space if you don’t have the heavy internal expertise needed to be a podcast guest.

Guesting on podcasts may be better for you if you want to:

Build deep trust with the audience

The great thing about podcast guesting is it positions you and the leaders of your team as experts in the industry. It allows you to speak to your ideal audience for 30-60 minutes whereas, with podcast sponsorships, you get 30-60 seconds max. You become the content the listeners want to listen to versus the ad they skip over.

Podcast guesting also gives you the platform and opportunity to build deep trust with your ICP, while with podcast sponsorships, you may run the risk of diluting the trust in your brand if your host-read ad doesn’t feel like a genuine endorsement for your product.

Position your leaders as experts

With a podcast guesting tour, you can help your leadership team build their credibility as notable experts in their various fields. You can have your CEO guest on business or startup-related shows, your CMO on marketing shows, or your CPO on people/workplace culture podcasts. Through these different avenues, you help position your brand and the people within it as leaders and experts in the market as opposed to a 60-second ad where all you have time to do is promote your brand or product.

If you’re a believer that people buy from people, it might be worth it to you to help build up your leadership presence on podcasts that your ideal customers listen to.

Use a long-form channel to tell your story

It’s tough to fully get your brand story out through short tweets, blogs, or email newsletters. People’s digital attention spans last about ~8 seconds, meaning you need to be able to grab someone’s attention quickly and can only keep it for a short period of time before they move on to the next post on their feed.

With podcast guesting, you’re given 30-60 minutes on average to explain who you are, how your company got started, the triumphs and failures you faced, where your business is going in the future, etc. You have time to be vulnerable with the listeners and create a deeper connection by telling your full story.

One of the main reasons this startup went on a podcast tour was because they needed a way to build brand awareness through efficient, long-form content. Blogs and traditional PR tactics were not only time-consuming for its leaders but did not capture the full essence of the brand’s story.\

Benefits summary:

Challenges of podcast sponsorships vs. challenges of podcast guesting

With every pro comes a con. In this section, we’ll cover the different challenges you might face whether you choose to sponsor podcasts or guest on them.

Sponsoring podcasts may not be for you if you:

Don’t have the budget for a pay-to-play technique

For top-tier shows, ads can range from $3K to $5K per 30 to 60-second slot. Our recommended test budget is $25K for 1 million impressions (i.e. people hearing your ad), spread across 6-12 shows. If you don’t have the budget to invest in a strategy like this, you might not get the returns you’re expecting out of this podcasting channel.

Want to provide in-depth expertise

While ads can give you a quick way to increase brand awareness and potentially increase your inbound leads and sales, they are also not meant for long-term brand value. Podcast advertising doesn’t allow you to form a personal connection with the audience because it’s a 30-second clip versus a 30-minute, value-driven conversation where you’re positioned as the expert.

If you want to provide in-depth expertise and value to your ideal audience, you need to think about being the content versus the ad.

Want the listener’s full attention

We might sound like a broken record here, but many people tend to skip ads so they can get to the meat of the podcast. Time is precious to your listeners, and if they’re choosing to spend the next 45-60 minutes listening to a podcast, they want to get as much value out of that time as possible. Your ad may come across as an interruption to their listening experience.

If they don’t skip over, they can very easily tune you out if the host isn’t giving an authentic recommendation of your product/service. That’s why it’s incredibly important for you to choose hosts who are already advocates of your brand or are, at the very least, familiar with your product and are willing to become loyal customers themselves.

Podcast guesting may not be for you if you:

Don’t have 12+ months to dedicate to this strategy

On average, it takes about 6-12 months to see the results of your podcast guesting strategy. You'll generate some activity in the first 3 months of your tour, but there’s oftentimes a lag from when the podcaster agrees to interview you to when the episode goes live, so we like to think of the first 3 months as a ramp-up period where you build relationships with hosts.

After 6-12 months of consistent interviews on shows that target your ideal customers, you’ll begin to build a more dominant perception of your brand in the market.

Want an expansive reach

There are typically fewer podcasts you can guest on than podcasts you can sponsor. The reason for that is you or your leadership team may not fit the ideal guest profile of the podcasts you’re trying to reach. Typically, hosts want to bring on guests that fully embody the experiences their listeners have gone through. 

They want their audience to relate to the guest, be inspired by them, and learn from them. While your product may solve some of the struggles this audience faces, if you yourself haven’t been through those experiences, then you’re likely not the right guest for that show.

On the other hand, podcast sponsorships are centered around the brand/product and the problem it solves versus the people behind it, meaning you open up the opportunity to advertise on shows that you may not be an ideal guest for.

Don’t have the bandwidth to manage a personalized pitch and follow-up strategy

Podcast guest pitching can be hard to scale with a small team because it requires a highly personalized outreach strategy. This isn’t something you use templated emails for. It requires a lot of time, research, and dedication to understanding the hosts, the shows, their goals, and how you fit into the bigger picture. Trust us, we know a little bit about outreach that lands in an interview, not the trash. 

Before going on a podcast tour, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your internal communications or PR team have the bandwidth to dedicate themselves to a highly personalized outreach strategy?
  • Do they have the tools necessary to research the best podcasts for your brand? 
  • Are they able to manage booking schedules and interview prep?

If you feel confident about managing a podcast guesting strategy in-house, check out this episode for an in-depth guide on how to run a tour. And if you answered “no” to any of the above questions but believe a podcast tour is the best channel for your brand, then consider hiring a podcast PR agency.

Challenges summary:

How do you decide whether podcast sponsorships or podcast guesting is right for your business?

Step 1: Define your goals

Defining your goals is the first step to determining whether sponsorships or guesting is right for your business. What are you trying to get out of these channels? How would you define ultimate success if you were to invest in a podcast strategy?

Some examples of goals you could reach with a podcast sponsorship strategy are:

  • Raising awareness of your product/brand
  • Staying top of mind
  • Prompting consideration of your product
  • Partnering with influential hosts in your industry
  • Indirectly increasing inbound leads and sales

Some examples of goals you could reach with a podcast guesting strategy are:

  • Raising awareness of your product/brand
  • Positioning yourself as a relevant voice in the industry
  • Building your perception as a market leader
  • Building your leadership profiles
  • Indirectly reducing the amount of time it takes for leads to convert to customers

For more on the differences between the direct and indirect ROIs of podcasting and how to define your goals, check out this guide.

Step 2: Determine your budget and timeline

Both sponsoring podcasts and guesting on them come with their costs. Of course, with sponsorships, the cost equates to the amount you’re willing to invest in ad placements and host partnerships.

With podcast guesting, you need to be open to a 12+ month strategy and need to have the internal bandwidth to manage the pitch and follow-up strategy. If you don’t have that bandwidth, you need to figure out whether you have the budget to hire an external podcast PR agency.

Step 3: Pick your strategy

You’ve defined your goals and determined your budget and timeline. Now, it’s time to pick the right podcasting strategy for your brand. Are you going to sponsor podcasts or guest on leading shows in your space?

Here’s a quick outline to help you make the final decision.

Podcast sponsorships are best for:

  • B2C brands that want to reach a wide audience quickly
  • Brands that want to build relationships with hosts through meaningful partnerships
  • Brands that don’t have the heavy internal expertise needed to be guests
  • Brands with multiple customer personas
  • Brands that struggle to produce content that is better than what’s already out there

Podcast guesting tours are best for:

  • Brands that want to position themselves as experts in their industry
  • Brands that believe people buy from people and want to build their leadership profiles
  • Brands that have the bandwidth for a highly personalized outreach strategy
  • Brands in need of a long-format marketing channel to tell their stories

At the end of the day, both podcast sponsorships and podcast guesting are great at raising the awareness of your brand, staying top of mind, and prompting consideration of your product. If you’re looking to pepper a wider audience and have the budget to spend on ads, then podcast sponsorships are the way to go. If, on the other hand, your primary focus is to build deep trust with your audience and position your leaders as experts, then podcast guesting may be a better path for you.

And if you have the right amount of time, budget, and internal bandwidth, you could invest in both strategies to further expand your reach.

Learn more:

How to run a podcast PR tour

Everything you need to know to get booked on shows

How Ahrefs maximizes podcast sponsorships

What podcast strategy is best for your brand?

Podcast production vs. podcast guesting

Talk to future customers, on podcasts they love.