Podcast consumption is on the rise — and is a growing medium to connect with Black audiences.
Black podcast listenership is up 26% from 2020, according to a study from SXM Media. Seventy-one percent of Black podcast listeners tuned into a podcast with a Black host in the last month, and 47% of participants said they prefer to listen to podcasts with hosts who are Black or people of color.
Meanwhile, according to industry research, urban culture lovers are 207% more likely to discover brands through podcasts.
Alcohol brand Martell Blue Swift wanted in on this growing opportunity. So to celebrate Black History month, it partnered with the “ Guys Next Door” podcast, produced by Acast Creative and part of Acast Black Voices series, which aims to amplify Black voices and monetization opportunities for creators.
The “Guys Next Door” podcast brings together friends Mack Wilds, Mouse Jones and FlyRy as they guide listeners through love, relationships, culture and more from a millennial perspective.
Martell Blue Swift approached Acast Creative with the idea for a campaign celebrating Black joy. It sparked a conversation that led to the “Guys Next Door” podcast seeming like an “organic fit,” said Shantae Howell, director of Acast Creative.
“This is an opportunity to elevate folks who may not always get that podcast time and have conversations with them about [people] that they were inspired by,” she added.
The campaign includes four episodes featuring Black changemakers sharing insights on how Black culture inspires their work, the importance of amplifying Black voices and businesses, the influence Black culture has on mainstream culture and more.
The episodes are tied to a particular topic or cultural moment. The first episode features music and culture journalist Naima Cochran, who goes in depth about the influence music has on the Black community and the evolution of R&B. The episode is tied to the Grammy Awards.
The “Guys Next Door” podcast has April Walker, streetwear designer and founder of Walker Wear, on episode two to discuss the impact of streetwear on music — and vice versa. The episode, which is pegged to New York City Fashion Week, also delves into Black women’s influence on streetwear.
Episode three — tied to the Oscar nominations — features Yamaneika Sauders, comedian and co-star of Oxygen’s “Funny Girls,” who will chat about iconic Black comedies and comedians. The final episode features artist and photographer Steve “Sweatpants” Irby, for a conversation about art and entrepreneurship.
Acast Creative worked with the hosts to pinpoint topics of interest to them that were also tied to events happening in February (i.e. the Grammy Awards and New York Fashion Week). The guests were a mix of people who had expressed interest in being on the show and people who Acast Creative knew from its network.
“We are creators as much as we are consumers,” said Tiffany Ashitey, director of partnerships at Acast. “It only makes sense that we would be on the creation side as well as the consumption side. At the end of the day, as more content is being created that we can relate to, listening is going to increase. It really ties back to resonance and connectivity.”
According to Howell, authenticity should be top of mind when looking to reach Black consumers.
“You have to understand that to build affinity with a Black audience, you should not be silencing their experiences,” said Howell. “It’s an important balance to think about as you're hoping to gain access to an audience that is increasingly consuming at a high rate and always influencing the purchases of everyone else around us.”
For brands, authenticity also plays a key role when selecting creators to partner with.
“You can't manipulate authenticity,” said Ashitey. “You can't be attracted to [a creator’s] uniqueness, and then all of the sudden, try to force feed your agenda onto it. Creators are authentic and they're passionate about what they do. And every brand that respects that only comes out on the upside.”