Joe Rogan’s Noteworthy Moment – A Mentality Matters Deep Dive

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Joe Rogan has found himself at the center of controversy for more than a month now.

You might be wondering, how did the extremely popular podcast host, comedian, TV personality and UFC interviewer/color commentator get into this situation that continues to play out week after week?

And, as a brand manager or agent, you might also wonder how your brand would respond if it was:

  • One of the sponsors of his show
  • A competitor to one of the sponsors of his show
  • Unsure whether its messages were appearing in online content about the controversy
  • An advertiser on Spotify, or considering Spotify for its media mix
Joe Rogan

Before we address those thoughts, let’s first look at the numbers to understand just how large The Joe Rogan Experience podcast is:

  • 1,961 episodes (and growing)
  • 11 million viewers per episode on average
  • 5,061 hours of videos (that’s enough to listen for 211 days straight)

No wonder he’s smiling.

That is a lot of listeners, a lot of content, and the reason Spotify was willing to pay $100 million to acquire The Joe Rogan Experience to sell ads on it.

To put that into perspective, 11 million is about the same number of viewers per episode for Paramount Network’s massive hit Yellowstone in season four this past Fall. That’s more than The Voice’s 8 million viewers per episode but less than the NFL’s per game viewership average of 16.6 million during the same period.

So, How Did This Moment Begin?

The seeds for this trending moment were planted on December 13 and 31, when Rogan had Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone, respectively, on his podcast. (See the Timeline of Events section below, for a full breakdown with links)

Due to Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone’s views on COVID and vaccines, a group of 270 medical experts signed and sent an open letter to Spotify on January 10.

That open letter was the spark that set off the media storm.

Major news outlets picked up the story, and then on January 25, Neil Young threatened to pull his music from the platform if Spotify didn’t kick off Rogan for promoting COVID-19 misinformation on his show. 

Spotify sided with Rogan and said they would not be removing his podcast, having reviewed all the episodes and determining that none of them met its “threshold for removal.”

In response, Young, Joni Mitchell and several other artists demanded that Spotify remove their music from the streaming service. Spotify complied.

Podcast host Brené Brown also suspended her shows on Spotify until further notice.

On January 30, Spotify announced that it would add a “content advisory” to podcasts that discuss the virus. 

The following day, Rogan made a public statement about the controversy, promising to research topics before discussing them and interview “more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones.”

Spotify’s stock price temporarily reversed its decline following Rogan’s statement. Then the moment took an unexpected turn…

The N-Word, The Rock and the UFC

On February 1, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson supported Rogan’s statement, only to walk back his support several days later after India.Arie shared a resurfaced video compilation of Rogan using the n-word multiple times on his podcast over the years.

Rogan came out and apologized for using the racial slur and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent a memo to his employees also apologizing for the situation and stating the company was… 

​“…committing to ‘an incremental investment of $100 million’ for licensing, development and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups.” 

He also asked Spotify’s teams to expand the number of outside experts it consults with about balancing “creator expression with user safety.”

Several days later, reports appeared that Rogan would not be part of the regular broadcast team for UFC 271 on February 11, due to a scheduling conflict. But then UFC president Dana White refuted that excuse, leading to speculation that Rogan’s absence had more to do with this still-brewing moment.

What’s a Brand to Do?

You could view this controversial moment as a potential minefield and temporarily block all content having to do with Joe Rogan…or even pull all your ads from Spotify, for that matter. That’s what brand managers and agents traditionally have done. 

Or…depending on your brand’s values and perspectives, you could view this moment as a field of opportunities for aligning with your consumers and differentiating from your competitors. 

Many brands focus only on avoiding risk in controversial moments like these and miss all the opportunities there.

The other challenge here for marketers and advertisers is that they often find themselves choosing between brand values and what they want to achieve in terms of customers, sales, clicks through, conversions, etc.

This is the situation more than 55 companies sponsoring The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify have found themselves in now. The thing to keep in mind is that it could happen to any brand, any time in today’s world—including yours.

These sponsors span industries ranging from supplements like Athletic Greens to tech giants like Zoom and DoorDash.

The second a moment like this happens, the clock starts ticking.

Each additional minute you take to decide your brand’s course of action, the risk of losing control of the situation increases. 

Should you continue advertising on his show?

Should you pull your ads?

Should you try to find a way to pick and choose which episodes to advertise on?

Should you make a public statement about the situation?

Should you talk to your employees about it?

No boilerplate answer would work for every brand here because every brand is unique.

Your brand’s response has to stem from what your brand does and doesn’t stand for, and be consistent. 

Today those answers have to come from brands associated with Joe Rogan. Tomorrow it could be a person, group, or company that your brand aligns with.

Poll: Answer the poll below and see results from our LinkedIn poll…

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Joe Rogan’s Noteworthy Moment Timeline of Events with representative content samples

December 13, 2021

December 31, 2021

January 10, 2022

January 25, 2022

January 26, 2022

January 28, 2022

January 29, 2022

January 30, 2022

January 31, 2022

February 1, 2022

February 3, 2022

February 4, 2022

February 5, 2022

February 6, 2022

February 7, 2022

February 9, 2022

February 10, 2022

February 11, 2022

February 12, 2022

February 16, 2022

February 17, 2022

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