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Adam Martin, Makers of Sport and Finding a Way to Stand Out in a Crowded Industry

Front Office Sports



This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

Adam (right) with dad (left) and first cousin Matt Carpenter (middle) has built an impressive following through Makers of Sport. Image via Adam Martin

Adam (right) with dad (left) and first cousin Matt Carpenter (middle) has built an impressive following through Makers of Sport. Image via Adam Martin

In life, there are people who say they will and people who do. Adam Martin is the latter.

The current principal creative director of Mtn. & Co., his own strategic design and branding studio focusing on enhancing the experience of sports design and technology, Martin finds himself in a role he never even envisioned growing up.

“I remember in 6th grade, I was given a copy of SLAM magazine and I fell in love. The writing was like nothing I had seen before. It had swagger,” Martin said. “Throughout high school, I took a plethora of art classes and had my eyes set on studying sneaker design in college.”

Not knowing of any programs available at that time specifically for sneaker design, Martin decided to attend Eastern Kentucky University to study art.

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It was there he would have an encounter that would change the course of his career forever.

“The first day of school, I found out that to be a sneaker designer, I had to take industrial design and at that time, the university did not offer that kind of program,” he added. “A baseball player who was interested in the same thing as I happened to be in the same class and told me that I should check out the graphic design program.”

Martin heeded his advice and not more than a week into college had switched to studying graphic design. With his newfound interest, Martin was able to marry his love for art and sports with his creativity.

While he is an infinitely curious person who studies topics like business, art and design religiously nowadays, Martin freely admits that he wasn’t as focused on academics outside of his design classes while at EKU.

“I had a lot of fun in college and while I didn’t graduate with the highest GPA, it was all about your portfolio when it came to getting jobs after college.”

Like many graduates, finding a job right after college proved somewhat difficult for Martin.

“Everyone is pushing out content. You have to get deeper. When you get deeper, that is when the fun stuff happens.”

— Adam Martin

After 5 different interviews, his job prospects seemed bleak. That is, until he landed an interview and a job with Host Communications.

A leader in the college athletics space at the time, Host was where Martin was first introduced into the world of sports business.

While he loved his time at Host, it wasn’t long before he was ready for a change.

“I didn’t have entrepreneurs in my family, so I just thought I was going to get a job and work there forever,” he added. “After spending many all-nighters at the printers, at 22, I got really burnt out, really quick.”

Realizing his desire to go out on his own, Martin made the decision to start his own company.

“I got to the point where I was ready to go out on my own,” he said. “I remember that when I told them that, they sent out an email to the company that read, ‘We would like to congratulate Adam in his new adventure and for starting a company.’ I knew at that point I had to do it.”

And do it he did.

“You never know who reads and listens to your stuff.”

— Adam Maritn

Without any clients or plan originally, Martin relied on his skills and his desires to prove to himself that he could do it.

If that meant being broke, Martin was willing to do it.

“I left and started freelancing. That first year, I was dead broke,” he said.

Fast forward 12 years and Martin now has a wife, two kids and a successful podcast and strategic design and branding studio.

Makers of Sport, Adam's podcast has received national acclaim. Image via Adam Martin

Makers of Sport, Adam’s podcast has received national acclaim. Image via Adam Martin

While the last decade for Martin has been filled with ups, downs and even a job helping run another business as a part owner outside of his own freelancing, he has been able to pursue his passion at each step.

In March of 2014, Martin added podcaster to his resume when he launched the Makers of Sports podcast.

3 years later, Makers of Sport has become an industry stalwart and has been a way for Martin to not only learn from his fellow peers but also give people the opportunity to showcase themselves to an engaged community.

Whether it was with his business or his podcast, Martin didn’t reinvent the wheel, he just went ahead and created what he wanted to create. Something that he says more people need to do.

“The best investment is the investment you make in yourself.”

— Adam Martin

“One of the big things I preach to my listeners and the people I speak with is to just start stuff. Having that entrepreneurial mindset can take you so far.”

Makers of Sport has continued to grow and Martin has continued to learn.

He credits the fact that the podcast goes beyond the typical questions to its growth and popularity.

“Everyone is pushing out content. You have to get deeper,” he added. “When you get deeper, that is when the fun stuff happens.”

Ever since his time at Host, Martin knew that the only thing he could count on was betting on himself.

“The best investment is the investment you make in yourself.”

By believing in his work and his abilities, less than 15 years later he accomplished what he set out to do the day that email went around the office.

His design work has been used by brands from the Red Sox to the SEC to his son’s local soccer club and listeners as far away as Australia have heard his podcast, but Martin knows that there is no time to let up.

After all, the kid who used to read SLAM Magazine is now doing work for them.

You can check out Martin’s work and his endeavors at the following sites.

Studio site:


Personal site:



Decoding 2.0: Receptivity Theory and the Power of Niche Sponsorship Strategies

New study unveils unique findings when it comes to sponsorships.



Earlier this year, global lifestyle marketing agency MKTG and sister agency, marketing analytics company, SRi, released The Receptivity Story, as part of Decoding 2.0.

Decoding 2.0 is a unique study, as it acts as one of the few sponsorship-specific studies in the industry. To date, it is also one of the most intensive ones as well.

There’s a ton of great stuff here, but I’ll focus on a couple of my favourite findings, and one thought:

  1. Receptivity Theory
  2. Niche Sports
  3. Firm-Level Differences

Receptivity Theory

Initially unearthed in the original Decoding study in 2012, Receptivity Theory is the idea that, more than the passion associated with a property, the receptivity of fans towards branding is more predictive of sponsorship success.

While this seems like an intuitive finding, the industry, without the necessary data, could only use passion or exposure as a proxy for predicted success.

Really — what we are doing here is shifting the inflection point. Rather than having brands place a premium on number of passionate fans, we can now shift to a brand-specific view, where meaningful attention to branding is being measured.

Niche Sports

Through this study, SRi discovered that there are three types of fans: Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives. Niche sports, which suffer from a lower total number of fans, benefit from a greater percentage of Receptive fans.

From a sponsor’s perspective, the math here has always been simple: would you prefer to reach many, but impact a lower percentage? Or, alternatively, would you prefer to reach few, but impact a greater percentage?

What’s easy to determine is relative exposure at the extremes — i.e.: the NFL is clearly more popular than swimming. The middle is more difficult to measure, and even tougher, the relative willingness to pay of fans.

For instance, assume the following, for average brand X:

  • Sponsorship for Sport A will reach 1,000 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 1
  • Sponsorship for Sport B will reach 500 fans per game, with fans, on average, valuing branded sponsorship at 2

Under this scenario, if return is value, X would be indifferent between the two options at the same price.

Scenarios like these are where receptivity is powerful. It provides perhaps one of the best estimations of reach — just because your branding is at a baseball game, does not mean that everyone will see it!

In addition, it lays the groundwork for potentially being able to measure predicted value of sponsorship, or “willingness to pay” — which would vary, whether you are a Receptive or Non-Receptive fan.

Borrowed from economics, willingness to pay is the idea that each consumer has a maximum price that they are willing to pay for a good. For this application, I will treat attention as price — the scarce resource.

Thus, the equation becomes closer to this:

Where i would act as categorical variable for category of fan. n would represent number of fans falling within the given category. Return would represent willingness to pay.

Because fans are heterogeneous, the brand will experience a different return for each “unit view” — meaning that even if one person’s receptivity differs from another, there will be subgroups within categories of fans, separated by willingness to pay. While we can assume that the return from a Receptive fan will be greater, meaning that variable return exists, we would still be uncertain as to the degree that this exists.

Importantly — this study clearly shows a greater percentage of surfing fans falling under the “Receptive” category than the NBA, but does the willingness to pay for Receptives, Selectives, and Non-Receptives differ between the two sports? It’s still early, and there will be ongoing studies, but these are questions that immediately come to mind.

One interesting note: if receptivity proves as powerful as this study suggests, it may become an arbitrage opportunity for the first brands who successfully adopt it. And, while the long-run equilibrium should theoretically be one in which all brands adopt this strategy, it may take some more time for sponsorship to get there — meaning that the early adopters could reap massive gains.

In speaking with Julie Zdziarski, VP of SRi:

“Brands do recognize that the scope is much smaller. But the key piece here is that the smaller sports are more lifestyle focused… they’re a more intimate environment”

Firm-Level Differences

Plenty of this is dependent on the firm, as well. In my earlier example, I assumed that a fan’s assigned value for branding (or willingness to pay) being greater was always a good thing.

For some firms, this isn’t necessarily true — and in fact, many firms pursue strategies in which they are unconcerned about reaching high-value customers. This leads to an advantage in number of customers, rather than one in revenue per customer. Think Google, or the telcos.

For these firms, receptivity still matters. Even if you want to be everywhere, you want to be sure that people are noticing you. But what matters less is the degree to which fans are willing to pay, whether they are Receptive or not.

Good Data Is Always Good

In an industry that suffers from a dearth of public data and dispersed data sets, this study acts as one of the true landmark pieces of research.

But here’s the thing: marketing data is tough, and it will never be as easy as it is in industries like finance to find information. And that’s why stuff like this is important.

To be sure, firms like MKTG enable people like me, who study the industry, to make better and more informed analyses, but it also benefits companies and other stakeholders. And understanding the consumer does more than just help brands make money — it provides consumers with an opportunity to gain more as well: leading to (hopefully) an optimal outcome.

It’s still early days, but MKTG has promised to release more stories in the future. When it comes to research and available data, sponsorship looks more promising than ever.


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Building Brands Through Content

A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

Front Office Sports



A deep-dive webinar presented by INFLCR that takes a look at how some of the biggest names in the world are using content to build their brands and bring in endorsement deals along the way.

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College Football Playoff Turns to Exclusive Packages to Deliver for Fans

The Playoff Premium service gives fans the chance to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Front Office Sports



*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

Next to the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff National Championship has become the most sought-after ticket and eagerly-anticipated game day experience in football.

With a showdown of this magnitude comes the opportunity to deliver activations fans can’t get anywhere else. To do this, the College Football Playoff has turned to Playoff Premium, a service that creates unique experiences including everything from sitting in a game day suite, to pregame hospitality, to the opportunity to go on the field after the final whistle blows.

According to a 2017 survey from Populous and Nielsen, two in three fans want a unique experience and are willing to pay extra for it. Given that immense demand, the CFP knew they had to, at the bare minimum, give fans the option to receive more. Playoff Premium was born.

“When the College Football Playoff was created, there was a conscious effort to make sure that we had a product that could accommodate fans, whether they were individuals or part of companies that wanted to come and have a more than normal experience at our National Championship game,” said Alfred White, Senior Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. “That’s Playoff Premium – exclusive packages that allow fans to experience the weekend of activities in new and exciting ways.”

Last year in Atlanta, packages sold out quickly.

“Last year was very successful for us. Our packages sold quickly,” White said. “Unfortunately we had to turn potential buyers away. There is only so much inventory and the demand for this game is now off the charts. College football is more popular than ever and fans want to be there when the confetti cannons go off.”

The momentum should only increase as the College Football Playoff National Championship heads west the first time.

“I’m excited to have a game purely on the West Coast,” White said. “We’ve gotten a great response already. The Bay Area and football — what better way to start the New Year.”

With a new coast comes a new set of challenges, but also a new set of opportunities — the biggest being able to deliver experiences tailored directly to the location of the game. Among the unique offerings this year, a gifting suite that will look similar to what the players experience during the week leading up to kickoff.

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“Our top-level package holders typically get a gift bag as part of their purchase,”White says. “This year, we’re going to do a gift suite. When our clients are at the game or at their pregame hospitality, they will be able to go to a designated area and there’ll be multiple gift options that they can choose from. We will have a point system and everyone who buys a package will be given a certain amount of points to ‘shop’ with.”

Once in a lifetime opportunities are always prized. With the CFP doubling down on its Playoff Premium service and its capabilities, expect to see the continued growth of moments that allow the fans to get closer than ever before to one of the most iconic events in all of sports.

*The College Football Playoff is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

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