Podcasting is becoming a very attractive medium for former sports stars.
Creating a podcast around a strong sporting personality lays the groundwork for a future media-based post-sports career, but also the freedom of the medium is an alluring prospect for those who have had to previously perhaps bite their tongues.
In a world where sports stars are often discouraged from expressing an opinion for fear of upsetting sponsors or the chairman, podcasting offers a space where big voices and controversial personalities can shine, build audiences and establish themselves as something beyond what they achieved in the field of play.
Here, Jim Salveson, head of the Sport Social Podcast Network looks at ten former sporting stars who are establishing themselves in the podcast space.
1. 'That Peter Crouch Show'
Peter Crouch is the OG when it comes to athletes (certainly in the UK) using podcasting as a springboard to help carve out a successful media career.
However, from what I know of this show, there was no big plan in terms of it providing a route for Crouch into the wider media space nor was the show's success expected to reach the heights it did.
The show hit upon something that, at the time, was rarely seen in sport; a glimpse into the real world of a current footballer. The unfiltered dressing room stories and behind-the- scenes access it offered became a real USP and set the bar for many shows that followed. Given the show's success (regularly the most listened to podcast on BBC Sounds) I'm sure there are a fair few disappointed faces at the BBC with regards to the recent defection to Acast.
2. 'The Joe Marler Show'
What I like about The Crowd Network's The Joe Marler Show is that it's not just based on Joe's great personality or his career in sport but it also has a strong concept behind its success too.
For each show, Joe sits down with a different guest to discuss their jobs and lives. Guests range from estate agents to theme park designers to prison guards to refugees. Whilst Joe is great value as a host and undoubtedly a big personality, its variety of topics and guests give the podcast depth.
The funny moments are still there but they are paired with thought-provoking and heart warming moments too. This creates content far richer than you would normally expect from the usual sports podcast trope of four blokes sitting around a microphone talking about what has happened and what is going to happen.
3. 'The Old Man and the Three' with JJ Redick
NBA Star JJ Redick has gone from a giant on the court to a giant behind the mic. One of the early stars of US Sport to see the value in establishing himself in the podcasting space, he has moved from creating podcasts for US Network The Ringer into launching his very own Podcast Production Company "Three Four Two Productions" specialising in sports content.
JJ isn't just a big name either, he clearly has an ear for content. His show "The Old Man and the Three" is fairly standard in format but demonstrates a great understanding of the medium and the role that former sports stars can play within it.
He is a thoughtful host who treats topics in a measured way and in doing so has become a bridge between the sport and its fans. His status allows him to attract big name NBA guests who are also comfortable with his calm and considered line of questioning. His knowledge and time in the game also add great value when he talks to younger players where he can draw from his own experiences for comparison. His knows which threads to pull, whoever the guest in the chair is.
JJ Redick is not only a great example of strong content-making but also of how, for former sports stars, podcasting isn't just an 'extra' - it can become a second career.
4. 'The Analyst: Inside Cricket' with Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes, the host of The Analyst, is arguably now better known for his media work than his career as a fast/medium bowler in county cricket. His podcast is a great example of using the medium to build and deliver a personal brand.
Simon has taken a Ronseal approach to his podcast brand. This is a show that gives you detail and depth. Be it a former player interview or coverage of the news agenda, you know what you are going to get: super-informed opinion and quality analysis... and what else would you expect from The Analyst?
5. 'The Dugout' on Football Social Daily
At Sport Social we wanted to do something a little different with some of the shows on our daily own-brand football podcast Football Social Daily so came up with a plan to switch up our weekly preview show. Football Social Daily is, for the main part, football journalists and fans discussing the current news agenda around the Premier League. It's a fairly simple concept which we didn't want to depart from too much for fear of disrupting our established listener base. Instead, we opted to create a new "flagship show" within the seven-day schedule featuring some bigger name personalities.
To do this we approached a number of former Premier League stars (such as Dean Hammond, Matt Jarvis and Paul Dickov) to offer their knowledge and experience within a weekend preview show. The results added another layer of content to our daily offering without disrupting the current product and offered the featured guests a platform on which to build their media experience without a huge long-term commitment.
6. 'Believe You Me' with Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping has nailed the idea of using podcasting as an extension of your personal brand.
In his days in the UFC ring, Bisping was known for being an outspoken character with a big personality and that has extended into his podcast product. His show feeds his follower's hunger for no-holds-barred comments and opinions on the sport (he is also great at storytelling with a bucket full of stories to tell).
Those opinions not only engage the current fanbase but help attract new ones with regular comments from the pod being published (either found or fed) in mainstream media news outlets.
Now, having just published episode 385 (and despite blatantly ignoring Apple Podcasts' guidance on not adding episode numbers to show titles) 'Believe You Me' is comfortably one of the biggest fight sports podcasts coming out of the UK.
7. 'Talk Is Jericho' with Chris Jericho
Let's not get into a conversation as to whether or not WWE is a "real" sport or not, but I guess it should come as no surprise that a character as big as Chris Jericho would be able to hold court effectively in his own podcast (and add a bit of showbiz sparkle too).
Jericho's CV is one that lends itself well to podcasting. As well as a world champion wrestler he can also lay claim to the job titles of actor, singer and author. He was also one of the early "celebrity" podcasters spotting the opportunity before many of his contemporaries by launching "Talk Is Jericho" back in 2013.
Again, as far as format is concerned there isn't anything remarkable at play here. It's a straight-up interview podcast with some pretty seismic guests (Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, Paul Stanley as well as a host of wrestling stars have all appeared) but make no mistake this universe revolves around Jericho. He's a big man with a big personality and (in a similar way to Joe Rogan) his passionate, enthusiastic and often brisk interview style makes the show tick.
8. Fozcast - Ben Foster
Ben Foster is a great example of a current sports pro using his status during his playing days to lay the groundwork for a future in media/podcasting.
The Watford keeper is laying the foundation of a mini-media empire with multiple podcasts titles, a YouTube channel and even his matchday experience in the net for the Hornets captured on a Go-Pro in the corner of the goal (and there is plenty to capture at the moment).
He's clearly a man with a plan for when he hangs up his gloves and will have witnessed first- hand the success of Peter Crouch in this space... and he's well equipped to be successful. The Fozcast is already a regular in the upper reaches of the Apple Sports charts and a recent partnership with Spotify has allowed Ben and his team to up their already decent production values by using the platforms production space.
The podcast itself is very solid but it doesn't deliver anything hugely different or better than many other shows on the market. Ben is a strong personality with an inquisitive interview style and the show tackles some interesting topics and guests.
What is interesting about this show is the 360 approach to publication, using Foster's status to gain an audience (and attract great guests) at this early stage and making sure good quality video and social media clips are part of their production process to increase awareness of the show.
9. Tailenders (Jimmy Anderson)
I'd be amazed if Tailenders didn't come about from a couple of BBC Execs in a meeting saying "We need another Peter Crouch podcast... but for cricket". Certainly, there are a few shared characteristics between the two shows that have contributed to the success.
It should be easy for an organisation like the BBC to create a hit podcast given their channels for promotion and access to talent. Tailenders is a great example of how those things can be leveraged.
Not only did they secure a big cricketing name in Jimmy Anderson to pull in the cricket fans but also identifying Radio One Breakfast's Greg James as a host - giving them potential access to a whole new Radio One audience who otherwise would be unlikely to be engaged in a cricket podcast. Even with these factors in play, however, the content needs to be good... and it is. The show's hosts are warm, funny and informed. The content is energetic and there are enough "in-jokes" to make regulars feel like a member of a special club without excluding new audience members.
From Jimmy Anderson's perspective, it's a smart move. Appearing on a podcast with relevance to a Radio One audience establishes him as a cricketing personality with a different group than those who would consider the TMS mainstays as their cricketing voices. As this audience matures, Anderson can move through the appropriate channels with them.
10. Seaman Says with David Seaman
Seaman Says have GREAT access to guests and that has been instrumental in the success of this podcast.
In the year it has been running (launching in the run-up to Euro 2020) the former England goalkeeper has spoken to many significant names in the footballing world from Paul Gasgcoine to Stuart Pearce to Jurgen Klinsmann.
Whilst the contacts book is important to this podcast title the show has also been smart with its content. The interviews, guests and topics give the podcast a timeless quality and a long listening tail, this is combined with more topical content broaching big news stories or major events helping cement the show into the audience listening routine.
Pairing (the very affable) Seaman with an established broadcaster such as Lyndsey Hooper helps provide a guiding hand ensuring content remains on track and creating a more polished/slick end production.
------- If you want help launching your own sports podcast or establishing your audio brand you can talk to Jim and the team via Voiceworks Sports
Plus find your next favourite sports podcast via the Sport Social Podcast Network