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Adam Martin, Creative Director, Mtn. & Co.

Adam Martin, Creative Director, Mtn. & Co. // Founder & Host, Makers of Sport Podcast

AAF: So let’s start with your podcast, Makers of Sport. What’s the background there?

Adam Martin: After I graduated from EKU, I worked for Host Communications, which eventually became IMG College. It opened up a whole world for me—we were doing stuff for all these major college sports organizations and I was blown away that it was in Lexington. That was my introduction to sports marketing.

After burning out quickly on the sports business, I ended up going full-time freelance for six years, doing a wide range of work but still occasionally scratching the athletics itch with a project here and there. I’m always looking for ways to push myself and do something really different and uncomfortable for me, one of those ways ended up being the podcast.

There was a type of show I was always looking for and could never find—the intersection of design, creativity and technology in sports. So being entrepreneurial in nature, I decided to take it upon myself to start the podcast I wanted in Makers of Sport.

AAF: Did you have any sort of podcasting background?

Adam Martin: None at all. I taught myself! My first episode was really bad—I didn’t write anything down, I repeated myself a lot. I was just trying to see if I could speak for 15 minutes straight. It took me a few episodes to realize that I needed to really prepare by writing an outline, researching my guests, having talking points and questions, but once I did that things went a lot better and I eventually found my voice.

The original plan was to do one episode per month. Now I do one every week, alternating between interviews and shorter “halftime” shows that are just me talking about sports business and entrepreneurship. It’s a lot of work—I put in about eight hours of legwork per episode.

It’s been really cool because the podcast is building a community around this niche topic, and that’s influencing my connections and my client-side business.

AAF: That’s Mtn. & Co., right?

Adam Martin: That’s right. About six months into doing the podcast I rebranded my design business (formerly A. Martin Design) into a vertically integrated sports design agency, Mtn. & Co. Sports.

Is there a story behind the name?

Adam Martin: There is—I’m an eighth-generation Kentuckian, my family is from the foothills of the Appalachians, so that’s where the mountain imagery came from. And if you remove a few letters from my last name, you get M-T-N. So Mtn. essentially serves as both an abbreviation of “mountain” and Martin. It was a bit serendipitous.

AAF: So how do the show and Mtn. & Co. work together?

Adam Martin: The show has given me an opportunity to position myself as a go-to source in this niche of business—I’ve sort of become a guy who has a ton of connections through the podcast and I end up introducing people to one another and helping others get jobs. It’s really a great way to give back to this industry as I don’t monetize the podcast at all…yet.

I really get to know the people I interview on a deeper level because I encourage them to share their stories, specifically their struggles. I’m not so interested in their current talent, but more along the philosophical ways they approach work and what makes them who they are. That creates lasting connections. The best part is my guests view me as a peer. My listeners mostly tune in to hear my guests, but I’ve discovered my real audience are the ones I interview. They enjoy speaking with me and I tend to really connect with most of them forming lasting connections and opportunities for projects (although most I can’t talk about publicly. Such is the nature of the sports business).

AAF: That’s such a cool position to be in. Are there any other podcasts out there like yours?

Adam Martin: Not really. There are a couple of shows that have sprung up and discuss more subjectively about the subject—whether they like or dislike a logo, for example—but Makers of Sport is unique because I talk to the people behind the decisions and don’t much care what the public thinks about a logo as there are extensive processes and levels of approval in sports, much more so than any other industry.

The Milwaukee Bucks recently rebranded and I interviewed Chris Isenberg, partner of Doubleday & Cartrwight, the Brooklyn firm that did the work; we really got into the whole process of dealing with a professional sports team and the bureaucracy involved. Some of their original concepts I felt were much better. But it has to be approved by the team executives, then owners, then the NBA itself.

Johnny Sports Fan goes on blogs and talks about how he hates a logo or how he could have done better, but generally he has no idea about the process involved to reach a final solution.

AAF: Who are some of your favorite guests?

Adam Martin: That’s a tough one. There are many. Episode 8: Darrin Crescenzi stands out, he used to work in-house at Nike’s Graphic Identity Group and now he’s at Interbrand in NYC. He’s extremely smart and talented and I learned a ton from him. Then are my buddies Joe Bosack (Episode 2) and Todd Radom (Episode 4). I have just really connected with those guys over the last 10 years.

Episode 27 with Bethany Heck is another fav. She’s a creative lead at Microsoft and has this really cool baseball-related side project called The Eephus League. She is probably the biggest baseball fan I know. We just really connected as buddies. She is super awesome.

Episode 57’s Ashley Strauss of the Tennessee Titans (formerly of Mississippi State) invited me to Starkville, MS and we made her episode this whole experience of what it’s like on Gameday at an SEC football power house. The staff at MSU was so welcoming and kind. Southern Hospitality definitely rings true there and I got to take my wife for a brief getaway.

Episode 54’s Alexandra Mount of the NFL is another person I really enjoyed interviewing. When you personally connect with a person, it makes the podcast fun. Alex played lacrosse in college and I do a lot of work in that industry so we hit it off.

Then there is Fanbrandz, Matt Lange, Steve Vollmer…you know? Overall, there isn’t an episode I didn’t like. There are definitely some that are probably less memorable than others but I have really connected with many guests. I haven’t felt any were bad.

AAF: And if someone’s never heard the show before, where would you suggest they start?

Adam Martin: Episode 0 obviously 🙂 But if short on time and you want to hear the background story of the show, Episode 25, the interception show is a good place to start. Joe Bosack, who had been on the show previously and is someone I’d consider a great friend and mentor, turned the mic on me and encouraged me to tell the Makers of Sport story. That’s also when I announced the rebranding of Mtn. & Co.

AAF: Aside from feeding business, does the podcast affect your design work?

Adam Martin: Absolutely. I get psyched up to talk to these mega-talented people, then I go head down and start making work. It has inspired me to really pursue side projects more—the first few years I was working, I had a lot of unfinished personal projects. Makers of Sport is one that I actually followed through with and have shown up consistently (2 years in March 2016).

It’s helped me in other areas as well like being a better listener, communicator and public speaker. I don’t believe in asking for permission, just do stuff. We live in an era where we aren’t limited by middle-men and gatekeepers. And the sports business tends to be full of those. But just go make the stuff you want to make and be consistent. It will all pay off in the end.

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