KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just 24 hours before NFL teams draft the next generation of college football talent to the professional ranks, Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce and his brother, Eagles Center Jason Kelce, were on stage recording a live version of their popular podcast, “New Heights with Jason & Travis Kelce.”
It is consistently ranked as one of the top sports podcasts across the United States and only got more popular through viral moments with guests and when the brothers’ teams faced off against each other in Super Bowl LVII.
KU William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications Assistant Professor Chris Etheridge says it shows how easy podcasts are to start, but how hard it can be to draw the audience the Kelce brothers already have.
“Anyone with a microphone can start a podcast now,” Etheridge said.
And they have.
Etheridge says the vast majority of podcasts that get started never catch on and no longer produce content.
But, when there’s an appetite for what podcasters create, audiences reward them with loyalty.
“As the NFL and as a lot of major sports leagues have tightened a lot of access that reporters and other people have to players, these are ways that players can communicate unfiltered to their fans,” Etheridge said. “And these are things that fans really, really want.”
Etheridge says outlets like The Players’ Tribune provide a similar opportunity, but that site publishes mostly written pieces from players, who occasionally use it to break news or reveal personal information about themselves.
Etheridge says podcasting allows players to highlight their personalities while showcasing conversations they likely wouldn’t have with traditional journalists.
“There are things that players think about that reporters might not necessarily, and it’s really great to hear the unfiltered perspective in addition to the traditional media channels,” Etheridge said.
That was true when Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes appeared on the “New Heights” podcast and told a handful of stories about his draft experience and career that hadn’t been widely known before.
It also gives the individual players another outlet for their creativity, and Etheridge says the Kelce brothers are among the best at it.
“They’re a cultural phenomenon,” Etheridge said. “You see t-shirts at the grocery store and listening to their podcast is kind of like being a superfan.”
He says the revenue from podcasting still likely won’t bring in the kind of money that professional athletes are accustomed to, but the fact that tickets were pretty hard to get for the live taping shows the Kelce brothers are on the right track.
“They’ve done such a great job of building their brand off the field and in a way that very few players have,” Etheridge said. “From a marketing and promotional perspective, those two are elites among football players, among athletes as a whole.”