How Walkers created a new blueprint for Goalhanger’s paid partnerships

The Rest Is Football’s Secret Santa campaign delivers 35 million impressions for Walkers

It’s 1994. Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Love Is All Around’ spends 15 weeks at number one. The world’s first smartphone goes on sale in August. And Gary Lineker becomes the public face of Walkers crisps, in a campaign that puts a humorous spin on the England star’s ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ persona.

Thirty years later, and Lineker is still representing Walkers as a brand ambassador, with the partnership having become one of the most iconic celebrity endorsements in the UK—but he’s also still refusing to share his crisps. Or at least he was - until the latest Walkers campaign with The Rest Is Football.

“Walkers came to us before Christmas [in November] and said they were keen to partner with The Rest Is Football,” explains Josh Akers, head of commercial operations at Goalhanger Podcasts. “Obviously, Gary's very famous, or maybe infamous, for not sharing his crisps. So that was quite a nice angle to lean in to.”

The Rest Is Football is presented by Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Micah Richards, and currently boasts around four million monthly downloads, with shows going out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays including review of the weekend's action, Q&A sessions, and an opportunity for content such as interviews and broader discussions. 

“On Wednesdays, Gary, Alan and Micah answer any questions about the weekend's football, their careers, or whatever's topical in the news. And naturally, building up to Christmas, there were lots of questions around the festive period, such as what happened at parties, what goes on in the dressing room, and whether players did Secret Santa,” Akers explains. 

For Goalhanger’s latest brand partnership, Walkers sponsored a whole episode of The Rest Is Football, with a dedicated segment where the hosts promoted the brand and discussed the topic of Secret Santa, following a question about the subject from one of the show’s listeners.

“This allowed Gary to seamlessly bring in the fact that he'd got his co-hosts a present to thank them for all of their efforts in the first half of the season,” says Akers. “Micah and Alan might be expecting a high-end watch or something. But, true to form, Gary buys them Walkers sharing bags. And this is the first time in 30 years that he's ever shared his Walkers!”

With the majority of the company’s adverts being read by the hosts of each respective show—who work to a profit-sharing model, receiving a split of the podcast’s revenue—authenticity is a vital part of the commercial decision-making process at Goalhanger. And research has shown that 67% of people are more attentive to podcast advertising (compared to just 46% for TV ads), because they have a greater connection with the hosts.

“The great thing is, it never really felt like an ad to us,” Akers says. “The beauty of this Walkers campaign was that we took an existing strand of content, our weekly Q&A episode, and seamlessly integrated our brand partner into it. It was very much a case of not reinventing the wheel.”

The partnership was clearly labeled as a ’paid promotion’ on YouTube, with a Walkers logo alternating with the show’s branding for the duration of the episode. And, whilst it was clearly a commercial partnership, the reaction from the show’s audience has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“The response has been great,” said Akers, “and Walkers picked up on it, too. They saw one of the YouTube comments that said it was the best ad they’d ever seen. When a client's sending you screenshots of the YouTube comments, and they're positive, that's very exciting.”

There were a number of dynamically inserted ad reads, which were pre-recorded, but the main campaign revolved around the show’s Secret Santa segment, and driving engagement through video channels. The overall campaign ended up smashing its initial target of 3.5 million impressions.

“We delivered over 35 million impressions,” says Akers.”As a very top line metric, that was hugely encouraging. To drive that level of reach and scale is incredible. But where we can really set ourselves apart at Goalhanger is engagement rates - and throughout the campaign we delivered over 250,000 engagements [likes, comments, and shares].”

Engagement was a vital element of the campaign, because the main ad segment didn’t appear at the very beginning of the episode. This was a potential problem, as low viewing and listening times would mean that users never made it as far as the ad slot - but the team was confident that the episode’s metrics would mirror previous engagement levels.

A co-selling agreement with Spotify, who were partners on the project as part of the monetisation deal between the two companies, gives Goalhanger access to a dedicated sales team, as well as an extra layer of ad analytics, which is useful in providing transparency to partners.

“I think the ad slot in the YouTube video came about three minutes into the episode,” said Akers. “But the great thing for us, looking through the data, was that the average view duration was around 13 minutes. So the fact that we were able to have that as an average, on an episode that was 24 minutes long, was incredible.”

Video played a massive part in the Walkers campaign, and it marks a shift in focus for Goalhanger, which is now looking to take more advantage of its social channels when it comes to commercial partnerships. 

“Traditionally, the revenue model at Goalhanger has revolved around ad reads,” explained Akers. “Now, not only do we do that, but we can offer social video activations, branded content, and sponsorships around live events. Podcasts have now evolved across the industry, to be more than just audio.”

The huge success of the Walkers campaign has meant that Goalhanger now plans to use it as a blueprint for future projects, with more focus on social platforms, especially video channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

“We will definitely be using this as a blueprint for full episode takeovers or integrations in the future, activating partnerships across our full suite of social video platforms. And once you add in the unique way Goalhanger approaches talent endorsement, which many brands are still surprised by, we're really excited about what we can deliver this year.”

Gary Lineker will be joining other hosts from Goalhaner’s The Rest Is… franchise for a live podcast recording at the Podcast Advertising Summit on 25 January. For more details, click here.