How Glenfiddich capitalised on the power of host-read sponsorships

Partnership with PumaPodcasts underlines the importance of authentic connections

Podcast advertising has evolved greatly over the past decade, with advancements in programmatic advertising and dynamic insertion making it easier and more cost-effective for brands to invest in this medium. However, the heart of podcasting still lies in the authentic connections created between the hosts and the listeners, and for brands to truly connect with these audiences, they should be tapping into that connection. 

Acast is a powerhouse in podcast advertising and has partnerships across growing global markets for podcasting, including South East Asia, where 82% of consumers now listen to podcasts either daily or weekly, according to Acast’s Sound Smart Asia 2023 report. In order to connect with these listeners, brands must rely on the host’s voice, the study showed, with over 60% of respondents trusting hosts’ endorsement of brands. 

Having seen the impact of podcasts in these regions, Scotch whisky brand Glenfiddich approached Acast last year to grow its audience in the Philippines. To this end, Acast facilitated a podcast advertising partnership with the Philippines’ award-winning PumaPodcast network, and by allowing the hosts the creativity to script their own ad reads and put their own personal touch on the campaign, the partnership proved to be highly successful in allowing Glenfiddich to reach its desired audience. 

Reaching the right audience for the brand 

One of the key factors that made the partnership work was making sure that the brand’s values aligned with the audiences of the podcasts. Ling Versteegen, the head of marketing in Singapore for Glenfiddich’s parent company William Grant & Sons, tells PodPod that the main goal for the brand was to raise awareness for its Where Next Club platform, which aims to provide a space for innovative Filipinos to connect. 

The PumaPodcast Network considers itself a “mission-driven organisation”, according to the company’s CEO Carl Javier, and its entire approach is rooted in journalistic values with shows such as social studies podcast What’s AP? Araling Panlipunan Rebooted and daily news podcast Teka Teka Explains. The demographic of PumaPodcast listeners is also fairly young, ranging mostly between the ages of 24 to 44, with 70% holding a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, matching the target audience for Glenfiddich. 

“Our considerations were to identify a young, affluent, digitally-savvy, highly-educated audience, with premium interests such as lifestyle, business, society, and culture,” says Versteegen. “In this case, Acast was able to partner us with PumaPodcast, which has an audience that aligns with our considerations and also falls in the bracket of inspiration seekers, interested in knowledge, and personal growth – areas that the Where Next Club aspires to resonate with.”

Another important goal for Glenfiddich was raising awareness for the brand in the Philippines region. In addition to running audio ads voiced by Glenfiddich Southeast Asia brand ambassador Brett Bayly across three podcasts within the Acast Show Collections in the region, the brand partnered with PumaPodcast to create a host-read sponsorship campaign that ran across the network. 

Leveraging the trust between hosts and listeners 

There were two versions of the host-read sponsorships - one that was voiced by Javier and one that was voiced by PumaPodcast co-founder Roby Alampay - all with the same call to action, which led listeners to Glenfiddich South East Asia’s Instagram account to learn more about the Where Next Club. By only providing Javier and Alampay with a brief and allowing them the complete creative freedom to script the ad reads, the brand was able to increase its favourability by 139%, which exceeded its benchmark of 39%. 

“We wanted to feature authentic stories and changemakers whom Filipinos can resonate with, and hence we gave them creative freedom to craft their messaging while emphasising the use of inventive audio synonymous with the Glenfiddich brand,” says Versteegen. “The sponsorships also incorporated quotes from events we did in association with the campaign and therefore provided a holistic approach.”

It’s important for brands to continue to lean into the power of host-read sponsorships, Javier tells PodPod, as the closeness of podcasting is rooted in the hosts’ ability to speak directly to the audience. Programmatic advertising is still an effective option for brands that want to lower their costs, he says, but host-reads can be more valuable. 

Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of brand advertising through host-read ads, including Audacy’s Podcast brand safety & suitability report which revealed that 50% of podcast listeners would be more likely to listen to recommendations coming directly from the hosts, as they trust them to pick worthy sponsors, and 40% said they would be likely to purchase a product after listening to a host-read ad. 

“I think it’s sort of inevitable that as more brands want to be involved at a lower cost than an ad-read would be, the automatic insertion makes it all easier and cheaper for them - which is fine, I have nothing against it,” says Javier. “I hope that more brands come around to [host-read sponsorships] and more brands realise that there is a place for programmatic and there is a place for social and everything else - but host-reads are a place of genuine connection and that is a place they want to be investing in.”

The ad reads also benefited PumaPodcast’s image as the campaign’s theme of innovation fits with its desired image. So, for each of the ad reads, Javier and Alampay portrayed how PumaPodcast is an innovator in the podcasting space while telling listeners how Glenfiddich is an innovator in the whisky industry. 

Investing in growing markets

Not only was this podcast advertising campaign successful in raising brand awareness and favourability for the Glenfiddich brand, it also helped PumaPodcast legitimise its place in the podcast industry, as the network says it is often harder to compete against companies in the West where they have much more power and volume. 

Javier tells PodPod the fact that the PumaPodcast network isn’t focused on creating content led by celebrity talent and big names makes it harder to reach a bigger audience, and this means the network wouldn’t usually be considered at the top of brand’s minds. In this case, however, it worked because its audience aligned with the goals of Glenfiddich. Javier says that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Acast connecting them. 

“I started working at PumaPodcasts in the beginning of 2019 and when I started, we were in the phase of educating the market,” says Javier. They didn’t understand what a podcast was or how it would fit into their strategies so it was very hard to convince any brand to do advertising.” 

“Brands in our space could better understand, if only there were more agents in play to show how valuable this space could be.” 

Versteegen also echoes how important it was for the Glenfiddich brand to work with a “trustworthy and capable partner” like Acast and says it helped them discover how approachable and cost-effective podcast advertising could be, which makes it more accessible for advertisers to get started in this medium quickly and efficiently. 

“Moving forward, we will explore new ways to increase our effectiveness in the audio space – from experimenting with different podcast formats to seeing how we can integrate podcasts with ads from other platforms,” says Versteegen. “Our aim is always to provide our audiences with a well-connected and impactful brand experience, which is also reliant on having a trustworthy and capable partner, like Acast.” 

The success of the partnership and the results that came out of it show that there is opportunity in growing markets across the podcasting industry such as the Philippines, and Javier says he hopes more brands will continue to invest in this space and in companies like PumaPodcast. 

“We believed that this [partnership] could go well but to have the success metric, it really shows the power of this opportunity,” Javier says. “If we could show what we could deliver, we can show that more brands can invest in opportunities with smaller markets like us.”