- BMW is collaborating on a six-episode podcast called, "The Special," with The New York Times' branded content studio, T Brand Studio, and restaurant discovery platform, The Infatuation. Each weekly show explores a U.S. city — Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle and Greenville, South Carolina — and culminates with a dish prepared for the show's guests by a local chef, according to an announcement by the companies.
- Journalist Minya Oh hosts the series, which features discussions with artists, architects, musicians, entrepreneurs and residents of each respective city. The first episode about Seattle aired on Feb. 25, and new episodes will be added each week through March 30.
- BMW is promoting its new X7 Sports Activity Vehicle during the podcast, aligning with the podcast's spirit of examining "the culture of cities through the eyes of its locals while exploring the intersection of old and new." Listeners can tune in to the show via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher.
BMW aims to reach well-heeled car buyers with its sponsorship of the "The Special" as part of its promotion for the new X7 model. The collaboration connects the carmaker with a well-regarded publisher and a restaurant recommendation platform, making the food- and travel-based podcast more attractive to potential listeners and consumers. That could be key to reaching on-the-go millennials who have steadily embraced podcasts but are buying fewer cars than older age groups.
BMW is the latest of a wave of brands leveraging podcast sponsorships to reach mobile users with a growing library of audio content. Sporting goods retailer Intersport this month partnered with Nike on an educational, training-focused podcast about long-distance running. Charmin, Safe Auto and Fair this month also started as presenting sponsors for the premiere of "The Ron Burgundy Podcast" starring actor Will Ferrell on the iHeartPodcast Network. Financial company Intuit, the developer of TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint software, recently announced a sponsorship of a personal finance podcast produced by Refinery29.
Meanwhile, Spotify, the audio streaming company with 207 million users, this month revealed plans to buy podcast network Gimlet Media and podcast production platform Anchor to expand its content offerings and dive deeper into audio content and podcasting.
The popularity and growing sophistication of smartphones underpins the booming streaming industry, including music, video and podcasts, with 76% of podcast listening occurring on a mobile device, an Edison Research survey found. About 44% of U.S. consumers ages 12 and older have listened to a podcast, translating into an estimate audience of 124 million, per the survey.
As such, U.S. podcast ad revenue is forecast to surge 111% to $659 million by 2020 from $313.9 million in 2017, an IAB/PwC study from June 2018 found. Branded content grew from 1.5% of the podcast ad market in 2016 to 6.5% by 2017, hinting at a growing opportunity for marketers to reach an extended and engaged audience base. The most popular category of podcast advertising was direct response (64% of spending), followed by brand awareness (29%), the study found.