Case Study

Case Study: How The Headgum Podcast Network Uses Swag To Celebrate Content Creators is proud to help innovative organizations around the world accomplish their goals. We work with businesses and nonprofits alike to create meaningful brand touch points that make an impact. Now and then we like to share stories of how some of our customers are doing just that!

Today we bring you the story of Headgum, a podcast network who recently released a subsidiary technology platform called Gumball. Their marketplace is designed to make connecting advertisers with creators a seamless experience for both parties. Here’s how they used swag to help them along the way!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, you probably know that podcasting has become one of the most popular entertainment and news mediums in the United States and abroad. As interest in AM/FM radio has declined, on-demand podcasts have steadily replaced traditional airwaves and created big opportunities for creators and advertisers alike. 

No one has been on the forefront of this trend more than Headgum, a bi-coastal podcast network with studios in Los Angeles and New York. Founded in 2015 by content creators Marty Micahel, Amir Blumenfeld and Jake Hurwitz, the network has grown to include over 50 original podcasts ranging in topics from sports, to comedy, to advice shows and more. Some of their most popular podcasts include If I Were You, Dead Eyes, Punch Up The Jam, and Not Another D&D Podcast.

Headgum offers content creators in its network the resources they need to make amazing podcasts, and more importantly, the ability to get paid doing it. 

Podcast advertising is a rapidly-growing industry

Podcasting is big business. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a research and advocacy organization that studies trends in advertising, podcasting revenues in 2020 came in around $824m, up 19% YoY. That same study suggested that this trend will continue, with revenues for 2021 expected to reach over $1 billion, and 2023 revenues projected at over $2 billion.

Podcast listeners will be familiar with some of the ways that advertisers leverage podcasts to showcase their brand— shows sometimes feature ad reads by the hosts, or advertiser-created content that can be added into the show to break it up. It’s a model that’s proved successful— and if the numbers in the IAB report are any indication, the trend seems to be heading towards ever more spending by advertisers in the years to come. 

Despite all of the money and interest from advertisers, connecting content creators with sponsors has traditionally been a difficult process. 

As leaders in the field, Headgum executives knew there was room for innovation when it came to connecting creators with sponsors. Their solution? To create a savvy marketplace that would streamline the process. 

Launching a new marketplace for creators

In 2019 Headgum launched Gumball, a revolutionary marketplace that allows brands to buy host-read advertisements directly from podcasters. Their platform allows podcasts to list their shows for brands to browse by topic, demographic and more. Brands can choose the shows that feel right for their product or service, and book ad spots directly on the site.

Before Gumball, content creators and sponsors had no easy way to connect with one another. Podcasters would have to manage their own ad sales, including spending lots of time and energy collecting listener demographics to share with potential partners. 

“We listened and heard that the lack of reliable tools made it difficult for advertisers and podcasters to easily and transparently collaborate,” said Gumball Co-founder Marty Michael in a press release. “We built a platform that fully supports listener-centric, impactful advertising campaigns for both podcasters and advertisers.” 

This platform streamlines the entire process by allowing advertisers to browse shows by content type, listener demographic, cost and more. For their part, content creators can simply add their show to the service and set a price that works for them. It might seem like an obvious need, but ultimately it took a team of seasoned content creators and savvy entrepreneurs to build the product that would revolutionize the industry.

“We are proud that Gumball is the best advertising marketplace developed by, and for, podcast creators,” Michael followed up. 

Building a new brand

But building the Gumball brand wasn’t necessarily easy, especially when Headgum was already such an established player in the space. 

“The Headgum network is seen as a comedy brand, which is awesome,” said Micah Hurwitz, a senior account executive with Headgum. “Gumball works to monetize our network podcasts, but we also work with tons of independent creators and smaller networks that exist outside of the comedy umbrella.”

To attract and retain advertisers and content creators alike, Gumball had to be recognized as an independent brand capable of meeting the needs of a diverse marketplace that extends well beyond comedy.

“It’s important that the Gumball brand is seen as a dynamic, artist-first marketplace where creators of any podcast genre can monetize their content and brands can find the right shows for their needs.” Hurwitz added.

To do this successfully, Gumball launched an independent website, complete with it’s own fresh brand aesthetics, and logo. It’s marketplace quickly attracted tons of podcasters outside of the Headgum network. Gumball also appealed to advertisers across many different industries who realized the value of a streamlined ad-buying process. 

Over 490 brands have used Gumball since its launch, including some massive brands like Helix Sleep, Brooklinen, Squarespace and Manscaped. These advertisers used Gumball to deliver over 11,000 host-read ads in that time.

Demonstrating appreciation and deepening connections

At the end of 2020, Headgum executives were looking for a way to celebrate clients of their Gumball platform at the end of their first full year in business. It had been a successful year, and client-facing team members at Gumball reached out to to help create meaningful touchpoints that could show their clients how much their business was appreciated. 

Since everyone was working from home, they wanted a gift that would be useful for their top content creators and advertisers in the home office. In the end they decided to go with one of our favorite mugs: the Maple.

Gumball added their fun logo to each mug, included a personalized note card of thanks, and used our Swag distribution platform to send these beautiful gifts to over 50 of their top clients scattered around the US in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, New York and San Diego. The results?

“Positive!” said Hurwitz. “I’ve heard from multiple clients that the cork bottom is unique— and especially convenient for the work-from-home lifestyle.”

The mugs were such a hit with clients that Gumball has decided to make this custom gift giving an ongoing part of their client management strategy. 

“I think gift-giving is super important to show appreciation and foster strong relationships,” Hurwitz offered. “We will definitely continue the tradition of branded holiday gifts like we did last year, and maybe even plan for other seasonal gifts one day in the future.”

Continuing to put artists first

As podcasting continues to grow in popularity, and advertising investment along with it, Gumball is well positioned to remain leaders in the space between content creators and sponsors. 

New shows crop up all the time, and sometimes out of nowhere, long-running shows become huge hits almost overnight. For all the types of podcasts out there, Gumball prides itself on supporting them by offering the most artist-friendly marketplace they can use to support their work.

“Gumball was developed by, and for, podcast creators, so the artist is always going to be at the center of everything we do,” Hurwitz said. “Not only is the artist-first approach going to remain a priority as we grow, it’s also the thing that will allow us to grow by creating strong relationships with more creators and more brands.”

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