Athletic Greens gives us the scoop on its podcast advertising strategy

We talked to its CRO Jonathan Corne about the brand’s partnerships with “hundreds” of podcasters.
article cover

Illustration: Grant Thomas, Photos: Athletic Greens

5 min read

If you’ve listened to even a single podcast, there’s a chance you’ve heard of Athletic Greens.

The company sells AG1, a $99 bag of green powder designed to serve as “comprehensive nutrition and gut health support in one daily drink.” Since 2015—but especially in the past few years—it’s been promoting the product in part by sponsoring podcasts with big-name hosts like Armchair Expert’s Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, as well as business author Tim Ferriss, who pitch AG1 to their listeners.

These days, Athletic Greens works with “hundreds” of podcasters at any given moment, CRO Jonathan Corne told Marketing Brew. In fact, it’s the third-largest podcast advertiser by total show count (behind BetterHelp and Manscaped) in the last year, according to podcast transcription and analytics service Podscribe.

Athletic Greens’ podcast ad strategy is all about “playing the long game,” Corne said. To do it, the brand has an in-house partnerships team of five that’s in part dedicated to leading its podcast investments.

Define the relationship

Athletic Greens isn’t looking to hit it and quit it with its podcast partners, so it’s developed a strategy to decide who it wants to team up with for the long haul.

When Corne was leading Athletic Greens’ podcast advertising on his own, he tested the medium by reaching out to whichever podcaster he was listening to at the time. Eventually, the strategy became more about finding the right audience for the brand—mostly people who are “taking ownership of their health, their personal finances, their relationships,” Corne said.

Ferriss, host of business podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, was one of the first podcasters to promote Athletic Greens (you never forget your first). He’s now an investor in the company, Corne told us. Neuroscientist and Stanford associate professor Andrew D. Huberman, who’s also the host of the podcast Huberman Lab, has been promoting the brand for about two years and has joined the company as a medical advisor, Corne said.

Other notable long-term Athletic Greens podcast partners include Shepard, Rich Roll of The Rich Roll Podcast, and Emily Abbate of Hurdle. These shows have at least some connection to health and wellness, making them natural fits for the brand. Armchair Expert, for instance, is tagged on Spotify under the categories “celebrities” and “comedy,” but Shepard often talks about his personal journey with health, Corne explained.

Once a podcast host is part of the rotation, Athletic Greens makes a point of trying not to sever ties—even in the case of economic downturns.

“What we don’t want to do is cancel anything,” Corne said. “We want to make sure that we stay, because we want to continue to build more and more relationships.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.

After saturating an audience, though, Athletic Greens may consider dialing back ad spend. While the brand has worked with Pod Save America since March 2020, ad placements are more on-again, off-again these days, since the brand has already “hit that audience quite a bit,” Corne said.

Just how long it takes to reach that point differs case to case, but Corne can usually tell it’s time for some sort of change in cadence or creative when “performance levels off,” he told us via email.

How do you measure a year in a podcast?

The brand has used both dynamically inserted and baked-in ads but found that baked-in ones tend to perform better. The partnerships team has also experimented with buying podcast ads programmatically, but it’s “a small part of our portfolio,” Corne told us in an email.

Since Athletic Greens got involved in podcast advertising before analytics tools like Spotify’s Podsights were widely available, it got used to tracking performance the old-fashioned way.

Athletic Greens uses vanity URLs equipped with “UTM parameters to track the digital events of individual shows,” like visits to the website and conversions, Corne explained in an email. That methodology, however, provides a “conservative view” of how a podcast campaign is performing, given that listeners might not use the vanity URL immediately—or at all—even if they do make a purchase.

So Athletic Greens relies on post-purchase surveys and other customer surveys as well as the “discretionary intuition” of its partnerships team for “the more artful side of attribution,” Corne said in an email.

Looking closely at its podcast campaigns for all the acronymed hard metrics (CPMs, CTRs, CVRs, CACs) and softer metrics like quality and depth of the relationship has enabled Athletic Greens to identify the trends that have informed its current strategy, according to Corne.

For instance, Corne learned that frequency is key to podcast advertising, given that it can sometimes take “a couple of ad reads for the audience to get familiar with the brand,” he told us.

Believe it or not, podcast campaigns are actually taking “less of a front seat, not necessarily because we’ve reduced investment, but because we’ve just brought in a different mix,” Corne said.

The brand is now focused on working with podcast hosts and other influencers to reach their audiences across platforms instead of building brand trust and awareness with podcast ads alone.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.