How the Public Media Audience Thinks and Why Sponsorships Work

How the Public Media Audience Thinks and Why Sponsorships Work

Radio has been the background of our lives for generations. It's been featured in movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Good Morning Vietnam, American Graffiti, and many more as a welcome escape, familiar friend, and the soundtrack of an age. Before the age of television, families gathered around the radio for news and entertainment. Most drivers couldn't wait to finally take a car out on their own where they could listen to their favorite music on the radio.  

The thing you don't consider when you fondly think about radio is advertisements. How many times have you tuned in to your favorite radio station only to be met with a string of commercials? Chances are, you did what 7 out of 10 drivers do, and you changed stations to find a talk show or music rather than ads. That is, unless your favorite show is on public radio. 

Public radio audiences greet sponsorship messages with interest and curiosity rather than annoyance. While commercial radio listeners are only loyal as long as their music or radio personality is on air, one study found that 68% of public radio listeners remain neutral or react positively toward sponsor messages. There is compelling research that illustrates why. 

Don't Touch That Dial

Dial-turn research shows that sponsorship messages on public radio stations don't cause listeners to turn off or change stations. Public media sponsorship messages have a different effect than the ordinary radio ad. It comes down to personal value. According to 2019 Lightspeed Research, NPR State of Sponsorship, 60% of the 165 million monthly NPR listeners pay attention to the sponsorship messages they hear.  

Public Radio and Brand Reputation

One of the reasons for this loyalty is that public radio audiences have an overall positive perception of the medium. NPR was named once again in the 2019 list of most loved brands. According to 2020 Kantar, NPR State of Sponsorship, 80% of listeners feel that what they hear on public radio is personally important. Ninety-nine percent of listeners find the information so relevant that they take action in response to something they heard on NPR 

Public media is widely considered to be trustworthy and community-oriented. Sponsorship is an excellent way to increase brand awareness. When brands sponsor public media, they inherit the same positive impression the audience holds for the station. This transference of trust and elevation of brand reputation is called the Halo Effect. 

What Listeners Think

Research in the 2020 Kantar, NPR State of Sponsorship survey shows that 71% of listeners view a business more favorably when they learn that it sponsors public radio. Sponsors are viewed in a philanthropic light rather than a commercial one, as businesses who are invested in the local community. That kinship is why 66% of listeners prefer to purchase from public radio sponsors. 

Uninterrupted Listening

While sponsorships fund public media similar to  ads subsidizing commercial stations, they are viewed differently. According to research firm SNL Kagan, commercial radio is up to 16 minutes of spots per hour. When you consider that 79% of listeners change the radio when they encounter commercials, that is a lot of expensive ad time for only 21% of the listening audience.  

Sponsor messages on public radio are considered less disruptive than commercials. Most public radio stations air only between 3-5 minutes of sponsor message per hour. Sponsor messages are also subject to regulations that hold them to higher levels of accountability.

Sponsorships are More Effective Than Commercial Spots

Public media is a powerful and influential platform, reaching millions of listeners each week. While it is common for commercial radio listeners to change channels when they hear ads, sponsor messages on public media are met with interest. Because listeners hold public media in high regard, brand reputation is higher for sponsors. Sponsors are viewed as station supporters, therefore their messages are considered less disruptive and more altruistic, particularly in the local community. 

If you are seeking the ideal sponsorship opportunity, consider working with a public media partner. By leveraging their experience, best practices, and relationships, they can help you connect with the ideal audience of interested consumers while increasing your ROI. 

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