1) American Prodigy - Freddy Adu
Back in 2014, the "Serial" podcast set the bar for podcasting. It was fantastic journalism
combined with great storytelling and creative production. It, deservedly, topped the
podcast charts. It's a level of production that is rarely reached in the genre of Sport but "American Prodigy" comes close. If you played the much-loved football management sim Championship Manager in the early 2000's you will know about Freddy Adu, a USA youth international who promised to be the next Pele but whose career never reached nearly those heights. With similar craft and technique shown by Serial, this podcast brilliantly tells the "where is he now" story of Adu's rise and fall from fame and how early expectations on a young footballer can hinder rather than help their development.
2) The Offensive
If you combined political sitcom "The Thick of It" with Amazon's behind-the-scenes documentary "All Or Nothing" you would probably come out with something close to The Offensive. This pod follows the plentiful lows of fleeting highs of fictional Premier League team Ashwood City FC. Not only does this show showcase high-quality acting and production but the writing is second to none: satire rather than fiction, you often find yourself wondering how close to real-life events the fictional world of Ashwood actually is? A brilliant and binge-able podcast... start at the beginning!
3) The Socially Distanced Sports Bar
There are plenty of sports podcasts that, despite having sport as their central theme, spend half their time talking about something completely different ... but very few do it as well and as effortlessly as Mike Bubbins, Ellis James and Steff Garrero on The Socially Distanced Sports Bar. A podcast can often live and die by the relationships between the hosts and this podcast nails it. There is still plenty of discussion about classic games and unforgettable moments (across a variety of sports) to keep the ardent sports fan happy but it's the effortless "banter" (god I hate that word) and the frequent wandering tangents that make this show a fantastic listen.
4) Fight Disciples
Podcasts are often at their best when they sound effortless. Adam Catterall and Nick Peet have exactly that quality on Fight Disciples. Not only does this podcast have brilliant guests and expert knowledge (displayed but never flaunted) it's also presented in such an easy, entertaining and personable style that even the non-fights sports fan (like myself) can enjoy the show.
Dunkumentaries was a short mini-series created by ESPN back in 2016 (and it never returned) but is a great example of how a niche topic, when treated and presented in an engaging way, can find a wider audience. I'm not a basketball fan (unless playing NBA Jam on the SNES in the early 90s counts?) but by focusing down on great stories and a part of the sport that everyone loves (Dunks!), ESPN created a podcast appealing to more than just BB diehards. As well as being a really well produced and structured, this podcast provides a blueprint for podcasts that want to find an edge in 2021 where short, pacey, snackable podcast content is going to shine.
6) Wrestling with The Champ
For a medium as creative as podcasting, I sometimes feel a little frustrated at the lack of
creativity on display within the sports genre.
That's why I love it when a podcast like "Wrestling with the Champ" comes along.
Like The Offensive, this is sporting fiction rather than fact, but there is plenty of sharply
observed parody of the genuine sport to keep fans of real wrestling happy (and I'm talking
UK, in-a-town-hall-wrestling rather than the bright lights of the WWE).
You can hear the time and love that has put into this show which combines some
genuinely laugh-out-loud writing with some beautifully crafted soundscapes.
A bit of an undiscovered gem.
7) The Price of Football podcast
This is a great example of finding (and exploiting) a niche within podcasting. Football finance expert Kieran Maguire and comedian Kevin Day team up on a show that they openly admit they never thought was going to work... but very much does. This podcast reaches the parts of football that others don't, it looks deeper into the finances, transfer and ownership dealings that often take place behind closed doors - giving the everyday fan a level of access they can not find elsewhere. This is fascinating in itself but "levels up" with Kieran's natural enthusiasm for the topic and Kevin's comedic background. Who would have thought that finance could be fun?
8) West Ham Way - Dave and Ex
A real personal choice this one. One of the brilliant things about podcasting for me is that the barriers for entry are low; with a relatively low financial output, anyone can make and publish their own show. This has led to an infinite number of fan-voiced, self-produced podcasts for pretty much every sport and every club imaginable. As a West Ham fan living in Manchester, this is a podcast that helps me feel part of the club and its fanbase - What it lacks in production values and craft it makes up for in raw passion and expert knowledge - two of the must-haves for any fan-cast type podcast.
One of the best. Simple as.
If you like football and you like story-telling then Spotify's original series 'Giant' excels.
What started life as a six-part series for Mundial has grown into one of the most respected
Sports podcasts in the world and a must-listen for football hipsters everywhere!
Insightful and intelligent journalism meets highly creative and carefully crafted production...
it really is a joy to listen to ('The Ballard of Alan Shearer' and 'When Wales Went To Orient'
being two personal episode highlights).
10) Football Social Daily
Time for a bit of self-promotion! Sport Social launched FSD at the start of the 2019/20 football season. We wanted to take advantage of the fast-paced news agenda of the Premier League and its global appeal and had also identified a gap in the market for a daily Premier League Show - this podcast was to fill the gap. I wanted the show to feel like a real community. Using a varied portfolio of contributors from journalists to YouTubers to comedians, each bringing their own unique style of analysis, helped give the show a natural conversational style. The show was meant to have the feel of talking football with your mates down the pub with the listener taking up the spare chair (rather than sitting on the next table and listening in), informed but inclusive. In terms of format it's not going win any awards for originality (people talking about football) but in terms of a product that nails a proposition and delivers at a regular high standard this show is a great example (Even if I do say so myself).
Jim Salveson is the Head of Sport at Voiceworks.ai
Voiceworks can deliver your audio strategy, from content production & distribution, to developing new technology channels so that you can be heard in a voice activated world.